Boston's Dem Mayor Grants Law Enforcement Power To Take On 'Methadone Mile' Crisis

Written By BlabberBuzz | Tuesday, 31 October 2023 22:15
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Boston's Democratic Mayor, Michelle Wu, has enacted a new regulation set to take effect on November 1, granting law enforcement the power to dismantle a homeless encampment in a Boston neighborhood notorious for drug use and criminal activities.

The intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, colloquially known as "Methadone Mile," has long been a refuge for individuals grappling with substance addiction. The area, characterized by makeshift tents and tarpaulin shelters, has been a hotbed of crime, prompting Mayor Wu to initiate the process of dissolving the encampment.

According to a report in the Boston Herald, the inhabitants of the tent city have been informed about the new regulation in multiple languages. New arrivals will be greeted by a team of social workers and law enforcement officers, who will communicate that the erection of new tents is prohibited.

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Mayor Wu acknowledged the complexity of the issue in a statement to local media outlet WCVB. "There is no magic wand in a very complex, long-standing challenge that cities around the country are facing with the opiate crisis, homelessness, mental health, but we know that in Boston we have a very good sense of, not only who it is that needs services, but also how to most effectively connect people with those services," she said.

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Despite Mayor Wu's efforts to link the 80-90 individuals residing in the encampment to social services daily, the problem, which she inherited from former Mayor Marty Walsh, has persisted. This figure is a reduction from approximately 200 individuals per day, as per reports.

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Mayor Wu's strategy to address the issue is threefold. The first step involves empowering police to remove tents and tarps, followed by connecting the displaced individuals with housing and other services. The Boston Herald reports that those residing at Mass and Cass will be offered transportation to temporary housing, but will no longer be permitted to camp in the area. The tents and tarps, which have been used as shelters, have also been utilized to conceal drug use and crime, according to Wu's team.

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City Council President Ed Flynn expressed his support for a "zero tolerance" approach at Mass and Cass. "We have rules in place, and people need to follow the rules," Flynn told the Herald. "If they break criminal laws, they need to be arrested and prosecuted."

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The third component of Wu's plan involves a significant police presence in the area to combat crime. Police Commissioner Michael Cox stated, "We want to make it clear to the people who come to the city with a different intent, whether it’s to sell drugs or criminality, or to victimize the people that are in these areas, we’re not going to allow that."

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The implementation of this ordinance coincides with Massachusetts' ongoing struggle with a migrant crisis, exacerbated by what Republican lawmaker Peter Durant describes as an outdated "right-to-shelter law" that entitles migrant families to emergency shelter funded by taxpayers.

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Governor Maura Healy cited various contributing factors, including "federal policies on immigration and work authorization," a lack of affordable housing, and the termination of COVID-era programs.

Durant proposed an amendment requiring anyone benefiting from the "right-to-shelter" to have been a legal resident for at least three years. He believes that some of the individuals displaced from "Methadone Mile" would qualify for shelter under his proposal.

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