Lowell Police Address Lower Highlands Concerns

In the first hours of 2011, eight partygoers, ages 14 to 20, were shot in the basement of 104 Grand St. in the Lower Highlands.

Corinna Oeur , 20, died.

“It is important to reflect on where we were and where we are now,” Lowell Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee told more than 50 residents of the Lower Highlands who gathered Saturday morning in the parking lot of the Molloy School. “Overall crime trends are getting better; by working together with the community we are having success.”

The community meeting was prompted by a recent spate of high profile incidents in the neighborhood including three incidents in which bullets were shot into homes and a prostitution sting in which 18 prostitutes and “johns” were arrested.

Late last month, a bullet ripped through the bedroom wall of a 71-year-old woman on Upham Street. That weekend, a bullet careened through Leslie Oxton’s home at 11 Fernald St., grazing a door frame, traveling through the wall of the bedroom in which her husband was sleeping and lodging in the wall of her daughter’s closet.

Last Sunday afternoon, three shots were fired into the side of 154 Smith Street and another into the bumper of a vehicle.

Lowell Police West Sector Commander, Capt. William Taylor, explained when comparing crime statistics from January 1 to August 20, 2011 to the same period this year, there has been an overall decrease in crime of 14 percent in the Lower Highlands.

Those figures include a 21 percent decrease in burglary, from 80 to 63 incidents; a 46 percent decrease in car breaks from 39 to 21 incidents; and a 24 percent decrease in robbery from 25 to 19 incidents. What skews the statistics is a 250 percent increase in shoplifting from 2 to 7 incidents.

The number of calls received by police for shots fired in the neighborhood (some of which later turned out to be firecrackers) fell from 38 in 2010 to 25 in 2011 and 18 so far this year.

Gang-related crime has decreased by 6 percent from the first eight months of last year compared to this year. Violent gang-related crime saw a drastic decrease from 2010 to 2011, from 13 to 6 incidents, while total gang-related incidents fell from 45 to 31 incidents; so far this year there have been 15 gang-related crimes in the neighborhood.

Taylor stressed in order for the positive trend to continue the police need cooperation from victims, witnesses and neighbors to get the criminals out of the neighborhoods. He urged anyone who sees anything they think is suspicious to call the police, even if it may seem minor.

He added the police department is using federal grant funding to assist community partners like the Boys and Girls Club and the United Teen Equality Center to further their proactive missions of keeping young people off the streets and out of trouble.

Additionally, Lowell Police are working with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office and State Police to provide an increased police presence in trouble spots.

Last Saturday night, for instance, following the Southeast Asian Water Festival, the State Police Community Action Team, which usually patrols Revere Beach during the summer, sent a sergeant and four troopers to Lowell to work with the LPD to prevent any potential gang violence.

In addition to Lavallee and Taylor, LPD Officers Paul Corcoran, Charlie Pappas and Peter St. Arnaud, as well as state Rep. Kevin Murphy, City Councilors Vesna Nuon and Marty Lorrey, Assistant to the City Manager Henri Marchand, and Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Joe Hungler attended the meeting.

Marchand said City Manager Bernie Lynch has authorized the city’s Impact Team to sweep through the Lower Highlands early next month. The Impact Team brings together officials and inspectors from several departments including police, fire, health and inspectional services to tour a section of the city, spot and fix problems.

Frustrated Lower Highlands Neighborhood Group President Taya Dixon Mullane asked why these sweeps seem to only occur in the wake of a problem, being reactive rather than proactive.

“The next time we have one of these meetings it will be because somebody is dead,” she said. “The impact team visits should be standard, every couple of months. The streets are littered with trash.”

She added the city’s vacant and foreclosed property ordinance is not being enforced; property managers and banks that own troubled locations are not maintaining the properties, which are both an eyesore and danger in the neighborhood.

Lieba Golden-Koulendros said she and several of her neighbors live in historic homes built in the 1860s that do not have porch lights and there are no street lights in her section of the neighborhood. The darkness, she said, provides a welcoming spot for drug users and prostitutes.

“The whores walk the street like it was the runway at a modeling show, twirling around,” she said.

Nuon said he hears the residents’ frustrations, adding everyone needs to work together to solve the problems. He urged residents, if they have a problem or feel an issue is being ignored, to call him or another city councilor.

The Lowell Police Department can be reached by calling the non-emergency line at (978) 937-3200. If you have any information on any crime, call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (978) 459-TIPS (8477) and you could be eligible for a cash reward. All callers remain anonymous. You can also Text-a-tip 847411 (tip must begin with   ”LPD tip”). Residents are encouraged to follow the LPD on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lowell-Police-Department-Official/329534741682 and LPD Twitter account @lowellpd for updates.

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