The night 25-year-old Keny Sien of Dracut was shot dead and another man stabbed on Middlesex Street, there were twice the number of police on duty in Downtown Lowell than on any normal Saturday night, Interim Police Superintendent Deb Friedl told more than 60 residents and business owners who attended the Lowell Downtown Neighborhood Association’s Monday night meeting.
Earlier in the day, the Southeast Asian Water Festival went off without incident, bringing 15,000 people to the Vandenberg Esplanade. Lowell Police increased patrols for the festival and various after-parties not officially associated with the festival; the Massachusetts State Police were also in the city, one of whom discovered $20,000 and a cache of drugs during a routine traffic stop.
“It was a fight that began and ended in minutes,” she said of the Middlesex Street violence. “This was a street fight resulting in one person stabbed and another fatally shot.”
Friedl was limited to what she could say about the ongoing investigation, but did say there is no evidence that the fight was related to either Garcia Brogan’s or Crown, the two bars in close proximity to the August 18 1:40 a.m. incident.
The same night shots were fired on Albion Street and in Centralville and last Friday night a man was shot off Woburn Street, the investigation into the connections between all of the incidents remains active.
“We are pretty sure we are going to wrap this up pretty quickly,” said Capt. Kevin Sullivan, who oversees the downtown.
Capt. William Taylor said late last summer a similar rash of violent crime broke out. When the investigations were completed it all tied back to a turf war between rival gangs engaged in the illegal distribution of marijuana. At one of the crime scenes, Taylor said, police stumbled upon $75,000 in cash.
Friedl added a large percentage of crime in the city including shootings, stabbings, robberies and home invasions can be traced back to marijuana distribution, a drug with a high profit margin and a plentiful supply.
The weekend following the fatal shooting, patrols were stepped up in the downtown.
LDNA President Kathleen Marcin said when she was walking home Sunday morning at 2:10 a.m. she saw eight officers on Market Street, four at the top of Central Street and more at the corner of Merrimack and Palmer Streets.
“Thursday and Friday night Middlesex Street was the safest street in the world,” Sullivan said.
“It sends a great message, but people should realize there is no way to do that all the time,” Marcin said.
Sullivan said the police work hard to employ strategy in determining where and when to locate officers. It’s a balance between providing adequate coverage in the downtown and not leaving the other neighborhoods vulnerable.
He added it is imperative for residents to call the police when they see something suspicious or are aware of any problems.
The majority of the violence downtown, Sullivan said, is the combination of excessive alcohol consumption and aggression. Last weekend he was patrolling the downtown when he noticed a large group gathered at the intersection of Market and Central Streets.
“My first thought was — what are they doing? Dancing in the street?” Sullivan said.
When he got closer he realized five or six guys had one guy on the ground and he was being kicked in the face.
A witness later told him the group of assailants walked out of Hookslide Kelly’s and she heard one of them say “let’s go f*** someone up.”
Another huge problem facing the city and mentioned by several downtown residents is aggressive panhandling by drug addicts and drug deals happening on the streets, particularly in the Appleton and Middlesex Street areas.
Residents who live in the Appleton Mills said drug deals are going down nightly on Canal Street and there is a lot of drug activity in the overgrown grassy area between the National Park parking lot on Dutton Street and the canal in front of Appleton Mills.
Sullivan said he would step up patrols, but also encouraged residents to call police and get license plates and descriptions of vehicles they suspect are involved in illegal activity.
Friedl said for the most part robberies, shoplifting and car breaks can all be tied back to addicts looking to fee their habit.
She added the police target drug dealers more than individual users to get the dealers of the street; if a user is arrested for possession of one or two bags of heroin, he or she will be arraigned at 10 a.m. the next morning and back on the street by noon, doing the same thing.
Contacting the Lowell Police has never been easier. For this portion, I will steal some information from my friend Rob Mills at the Sun’s Police Line blog:
Anyone with information please call Lowell Police at 978.937.3200.
If you want to remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers at 978.459.TIPS (8477), or contact police via text message by texting to 847411, with “LPDtip” in the subject line of the text.
Tips can also be submitted anonymously at http://www.citizenobserver.com. Select “community” and then type in 01852 to select Lowell Police. Then select “submit a tip” and type in your information.
Those who provide anonymous information are still eligible to get a cash reward of up to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.