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Parks Department says, yeah, we know the Common is a hellhole, call the mayor

A concerned citizen with a bird's eye view of the Tremont side of the Common filed a 311 complaint about homeless people by the visitor center, only with somewhat less neutral nomenclature.

The Parks Department responded:

We the parks powerwash and clean it everymorning.homeless and drug uses complete trash the park 24 7 .please call 911 also the mayors office as the park is dangerous. -

H/t another grizzled 311 browser.

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Comments

First, the citizen is posting a photo of the City doing something about a problem, so what do they expect the City to do?

That said, second, the snark from 311 was way out of line.

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I recently filed a 311 complaint for loud music being played regularly Friday/Saturday evenings in a nearby lot. Some of the music is coming from outdoor church services. They told me to call 911 and report the disturbances.

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Boston Police frequently remind us that 911 is for all calls requiring a police response, including non emergency “quality of life” issues like loud parties. They point out that they have enough call center staff to triage calls, that it is a more effective use of staff and facilities to route all calls through a single call center, and that 911 calls get logged into a database that provides analytic tools to allow them to identify problem properties, corners that need more attention, etc.

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Yeah, apparently the non-homeless people never trash the park. I certainly have never seen people trashing the park with their trash. And since we don't give the homeless a place to go, the park becomes that place since it is a place that loitering is allowed.

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I walk from Downtown to Copley Square most days after work. The park along Tremont Street from Park Street station down to West Street is covered in trash, mostly from folks sitting on the fountain ledges, benches and grass, leaving piles of cups and food containers, mostly from the convenience store across the street. It is not tourists. It is the same folks from day to day, loitering and shooting up. Starting to resemble in spirit Methadone Mile.

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Who even wrote that? A 10 year old? Do they check responses before sending them out? The response is so unprofessional and the poor grammar and “typing” makes them look pretty stupid.

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Has the same (high) level of education that you seem to have.

Setting the content aside, the way that the response is formatted seems perfectly reasonable for someone with a high school diploma who graduated before the smartphone was invented. This description would be consistent with a Parks department employee whose job is to be out in the field checking on (and addressing) 311 reports...

Again, not defending the content, but what more can you expect for how little the city pays its manual laborers?

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Who is on the priority list for admission to the exam schools .... too soon?

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I can't tell if this comment is racist or not, but it kinda feels racist.

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Poor grammar and writing are a universal issue but thanks for sharing your own bias here

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I am shocked that someone working for the city is allowed to be this honest. I can't imagine someone working for the MBTA being allowed to be this honest.

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homeless people. The complaint says "Disaster trash at Boston welcome center" and shows a picture of the litter. Why does this blog then characterize that as "a 311 complaint about homeless people"?

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And the four BPD cruisers and the detective car with their blue lights on are there to help the Parks people pick up the litter. How could I have missed that?

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You've been in the city a long time Adam, surely you've seen that BPD parks in high-traffic areas often, including the Common. Also, not every police response is for homelessness. This sounds like your (probably correct) assumptions about the cause of the trash situation projecting onto what the 311 caller wrote when no such intimation is there.

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The sloppy note that was used to close this 311 ticket mentioned homeless people. Adam did not insert that notion into this narrative, it was already there, he quoted it too...

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Adam wrote in in the body of the UHub story we're commenting on:

"A concerned citizen with a bird's eye view of the Tremont side of the Common filed a 311 complaint about homeless people by the visitor center, only with somewhat less neutral nomenclature."

The linked 311 complaint, filed under the category "Litter at Boston Common", has a photo of an area on the Common with a police response (the target of the response is obscured), a gaggle of onlookers, and a bunch of trash all over near the road:
IMAGE(https://311.boston.gov/media/boston/report/photos/611065db05bb15e655f7deda/photo_20210808_191607.jpg)

The photo was submitted with the comment:

Disaster trash at Boston welcome center

The 311 operator did indeed mention homelessness in their reply to the ticket, however "Disaster trash at Boston welcome center" seems to be talking about the scale of the messy litter that needs cleanup, which is an appropriate use of 311 and not "a 311 complaint about homeless people".

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homed residents leave more trash and litter than might be dropped by the less fortunate, who by the way, are entitled to use the park.

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I don't think this is true regarding the litter. The areas where homeless hang out are usually have a lot more litter than the rest of the park. Also see the need for daily street cleaning on Methadone Mile, which is cleaned daily and covered in litter right after.

The 311 reply was snarky, but not wrong.

I agree everyone is entitled to use the park. But also, everyone should put their trash in a barrel. Homed or not. (*"Homed" being a weak & passive voice euphemism )

. Tourists and
By Homer Bedloe on Mon, 08/09/2021 - 7:32am.

homed residents leave more trash and litter than might be dropped by the less fortunate, who by the way, are entitled to use the park

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(*"Homed" being a weak & passive voice euphemism )

I can see that you don't care for the term, but how is the word "homeless" any different?

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I'm in the park twice a day as part of my commute. The currently unhoused are creating tons of trash.

I'm not arguing that the appropriate response is to criminalize homelessness. On the contrary, I believe we should do far more to support those experiencing one or more of homelessness, addiction, and mental illness. But pretending that a tourist dropping a Snickers wrapper is creating more trash than people who are living on park benches isn't helping.

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The common is pretty dangerous and filled with people with varying mental health and substance abuse issues. Park Rangers can’t arrest people, so they need BPD assistance. I don’t know who is causing the trash or running the 311 response, but those are sideshows. The real issue is that the city has not come up with a solution to the issues plaguing the common. This goes back several years. Rather than paying social workers to respond to calls for service, maybe the money could be spent on a more robust mental health strategy. The city is flush with cash and needs to leverage it to address the common problem.

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That's the problem exactly - the city has been ignoring a growing problem here for awhile. I've walked through the common every workday, for the last 15 years. Pre-covid and around the time of the first methadone mile "clean out", the common started to get noticeably much sketchier. For months at the end of the summer 2019 into fall 2019, the cops were at Park St. every morning around 8-8:30 settling fights, making arrests, moving people along. I started to get harassed (one time followed from the common to gov't ctr) on a weekly or biweekly basis. Just because the cops were there every day was doing nothing to solve the issues of violence/drug use and was certainly not helping anyone without anywhere else to go. This persisted until winter, when cold weather moved most all people indoors (or where else they might go to). I was WFH until Sept of 2020 so I don't know how the common was until then. I know that when I returned to my commute, I was harassed so much in the first week (men following me, getting in my face, cursing at me), that I resolved to change my route and avoid the common entirely. The few times I have ventured back, I haven't felt safe. The city has been ignoring this. It's a lot of problems rolled into one - all homeless do not equal all the drug users do not equal all the violent people. But the city needs to figure out how to address these issues for the city at large (and soon, what are you waiting for), rather than sweep people off the common to just let the problems fester in another part of the city.

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I feel like everyone needs to read the Parks reply again and comprehend.. "homeless and drug users trash the park 24/7. " " the park is dangerous ". Let's not brush aside the problem with whataboutisms like residents and tourists also being a problem. Fix the problem that the Park has identified and go from there. That's how public service is supposed to work.

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The Common is indeed dangerous, but it is a relatively recent phenomenon, as is the dangerous aspect of Downtown Crossing and the stretch of Tremont Street opposite Park Street and the Common. I am a native Bostonian, and I have utilized the common in one capacity or another for 50 years. In the 70s I even used to walk through it at 3 AM on my way home from Kenmore Square clubs. At no time did I feel unsafe. Nowadays, however, I feel distinctly unsafe in the presence of aggressive addicts (if they are not busy fighting with each other they are often haranguing passersby) and what appear to me the dangerously mentally ill.

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Now, I've only been acquainted with the Boston Common since the late 1970s, but I will claim that in the 1980s it was definitely as sketchy as it is now. You most likely felt invincible in the 1970s, but 40-50 years later you have a different view on what is safe. Don't get me wrong, as the same might be true with me in a sense. As a pre-teen, there was a lot in the city that scared me, but now I know what to trust and what not to trust.

For an interesting take on Boston and those who have mental health and/or substance abuse problems, read Michael MacDonald's Easter Rising. I'd say that he hits the nail on the head as far as the level of insanity one encountered in the city in the 80s.

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+1 for EASTER RISING.

This book and the Boston chapters of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X are my go-to recommendations for people looking for narratives depicting slices of Boston life “back in the day”.

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That response from the Parks Department is terrible, and honestly, the person who wrote it should be fired.

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You think that is an immediately fireable offense? I'm glad I don't work for you.

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Let's deputize the guys that pick up and power wash every day to enforce the no-littering laws all day (and night) instead. Or are there already people that are supposed to do that?

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