Residents of Boston's Grove Hall neighborhood received visitors from City Hall last night.
To launch Mayor Tom Menino's new Violence Intervention and Prevention program, about 40 volunteers went door-to-door in the area, asking residents how the city can help make them safer.
WBUR's Bianca Vazquez Toness went along with one group and has this report.
TEXT OF STORY:
DARRELL MOORE: We're, we;re with Mayor Menino's office.
BIANCA VAZQUEZ TONESS: Volunteer Darrell Moore calls up to a young boy who's sticking his head out the top window of an apartment building.
MOORE: Is your mother home or somebody home who's older?
TONESS: Moore's strategy is to push all the doorbells at an apartment building and see who answers. They just need one person to let them in the building, and then they can approach individual apartments.
Their group of 40 volunteers aims to knock on approximately 700 hundred doors on this night.
MOORE: Yeah, we've got the whole street.
TONESS: At this apartment building, another resident — this time an adult — pops his head out the window, and Moore launches into his spiel.
MOORE: Oh, how you doin' sir? We're with the mayor's office and we sent out letters about you know curbing the violence, trying to see how we can bring safety to.
TYRONE WASHINGTON: What about Mass Health? I'm trying to get...
MOORE: That's what this is all about, health and services. Yes. It's about connecting you to services.
WASHINGTON: I've been on the phone for two hours trying to get health insurance.
TONESS: Bingo. Tyrone Washington invites Moore inside.
MOORE: We are out here today visiting everyone in this neighborhood as part of the mayor's violence prevention and intervention initiative and we'd like to give you this backpack filled with information and programs and services in the community.
TONESS: The bag of goodies includes information about getting health insurance, finding local after school programs and help finding jobs. Then, Moore starts with the questions.MOORE: Are there any problems in the neighborhood that the city can fix right now?
TYRONE WASHINGTON: Umm....not right now, it's been doing pretty good, I've lived here for like 22 years.
MOORE: Twenty-two years?
WASHINGTON: And the crime rate went down a lot.
MOORE: You said the crime rate went down? Well, that's good news. That's good news.
WASHINGTON: They're still here shooting, but no one's getting killed.TONESS: But the police identified Grove Hall as a hot-spot where violence has spiked in the last three years. Earlier this year, Mayor Menino increased community policing in this neighborhood, then launched this more comprehensive and aggressive plan last night, literally sending out people to offer help and guaranteeing a response within 48 hours.
Washington may think things are improving on his street, but his neighbors don't.
MOORE: How're you doing, sir?
TONESS: Jesus Flores and his wife were talking on the phone to their family in Guatemala when the volunteers knocked on their door.
Flores complained about young men in his building who he thinks are up to no good. He said he and his family keep to themselves to avoid trouble.
JESUS FLORES: El alcalde puede poner mas policia en la area de Dorchester.
TONESS: Flores says the mayor should put more police on the streets in Dorchester.Jose Solis answered his door wearing a bathrobe, and seemed very surprised by the visitors. Still, he was chatty once the volunteers asked his opinion about the neighborhood and what it needs.
JOSE SOLIS: More cops on the street, instead of harrassing people for tickets and licenses, they should get against the streets that you keep riding by. You know what I mean? Get at the grits instead of harassing people for drinking outside of their house for instance when you got drug dealers sitting around the corner. That's bull. That doesn't make sense.
TONESS: Once the volunteers asked residents for their input and promised results, they closed the deal by asking them to get involved.
Solis, like, many others agreed to be part of a new neighborhood peace council, where residents, city employees, including police, will discuss safety in the neighborhood.
JORGE MARTINEZ: So this is a positive step in getting the resources that families here deserve and pay taxes for and should get without asking.
TONESS: Jorge Martinez runs Project Right, a non-profit in Grove Hall dedicated to preventing youth violence. He thinks the city should follow up on this night since he worries that a plan like this is unsustainable.MARTINEZ: We have a lot of people who come into this neighborhood and they've been coming here for decades. They come in and promise things.
TONESS: And then they just leave, says Martinez. So residents stop trusting any offer of help. Still, he's committed his staff to going door to door with the city. They'll repeat this exercise in three other neighborhoods in the next few weeks.
This program aired on November 16, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.