By Sue Moynagh
Recently, there has been increased gun violence in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Worcester, especially this past summer. Two shots were fired at a car on Harrison Street early in July. Soon after this, shots were fired at the Coral and Waverly Street intersection. There was a shooting on Mendon Street on August 24, and within a week, approximately six shots were fired at a house near the corner of Providence and Harrison Streets.
A woman was shot and killed on Fairfax Road.
I have also heard two gun shots on Saturday, October 9, at 10:40 p.m., and four shots the following Friday at approximately the same time. A small local market had the door window smashed and was robbed at gun point soon afterwards. Most or all of these incidents are tied in with drug activity in the area. Two long-time residents have had bullets shot through their windows.
Recently a man was attacked and hit over the head with a hammer on Mott Street.
These are not isolated incidents!
What are the solutions?
I feel the residents of these neighborhoods need to be taken seriously, for starters. Often we are told that our issues are no big deal. What happens in our neighborhood happens everywhere, we are told by some city officials, often with condescending smiles.
If a person is diagnosed with cancer, the last thing they need to hear is “don’t worry about it, lots of people have cancer.” They want and need aggressive therapy to eliminate the malignancy before it spreads and kills.
Gun violence, robberies and now these sexual assaults are like a cancer taking root in our community. We need a more aggressive response to deal with it before it increases and spreads. We should not have to feel the need to compete with other neighborhoods for limited resources and protection.
Main South activist Bill Breault attended a recent press conference about the uptick of violent crime in Oak Hill as a show of solidarity. We all try to work together because we have mutual issues.
We also have to identify and target problem properties, such as 23 Jefferson St. The man arrested in the Fairfax Road shooting gave the address of 23 Jefferson Street. The suspect in the attacks on the three teenage girls was also arrested early in August for attacking his girlfriend, who lives at this address. There have been reports of drug activity for a long period of time, as well.
Who should respond to our call for action? Everyone, including the residents themselves. As our State Representative John Fresolo said, “I invite my colleagues in Government, that is, the City Manager and City Councilors to involve themselves in the issues of the Union Hill Neighborhood. The spike in the violent crime and crimes associated with drug activity has extremely increased throughout the summer and early fall months. There are good people that still live in this neighborhood that have to deal with this and deserve the respect and prompt response from city departments, i.e. police and code, as they pay the same taxes as every other neighborhood and deserve the same services. I have a news flash for everyone: this is the reason people have left this neighborhood and this City. People will continue to leave if we don’t take prompt action. I encourage those who live within the Union Hill Neighborhood to notify the proper departments, police or code, when they see crimes taking place. If they are afraid of retaliation, feel free to contact me directly and I will report your claim anonymously.”
Our crime watch police officer Mike Kowalchek does a tremendous job. He not only channels our complaints to the appropriate departments, he also works personally to follow up and give us progress reports. He acts,however, as a liaison for all of the crime watch meetings in District 3, a huge area encompassing Union Hill, Quinsigamond Village and parts of Grafton and Vernon Hill.
I am sure he can agree that cleaning up a problem property in one neighborhood often means the problem is relocated into another neighborhood, highlighting the necessity of cooperation between neighborhoods. I must also point out that he can only deal with what is reported to him. People have to get involved and speak up. They have to keep their eyes and ears open and give specific details about what they see, such as times, license numbers, addresses. Police need good descriptions of people engaged in criminal activities. Education of residents is a must if we are to take back our neighborhoods. City officials should also remember that they are paid public servants. They work for us and we shouldn’t have to be afraid to speak up and ask them for help.
Lorraine Laurie has lived in Worcester her whole life and has been an activist in both the Union Hill and Green Island neighborhoods. We both have seen how quickly a safe and pleasant neighborhood can deteriorate to the point that you no longer feel comfortable walking on your own street. She also spoke about the need for more resident involvement in solving the problems we face, as well as the need to work together, saying, “The City Departments, the politicians, the residents, the landlords, the organizations and the agencies need to work together to help take back the neighborhood. Residents should not be afraid to go to the store or visit their neighbors. Children should be able to walk safely to and from school. Residents are entitled to a good night’s sleep. This has to be a cooperative effort. All sectors have to be involved. We have to stand united for Union Hill!”
Well said. I just hope someone listens.