By Sue Moynagh
A month ago, a group of neighborhood people, with the help of Representative John Fresolo, held a press conference to speak out against increasing violence in our Union Hill community. I wrote an article for the InCity Times a few days later, detailing our concerns, and letting the public know that we all have to play a part in taking back our neighborhood. On Monday, November 29, there was another press conference, in Green Island’s Crompton Park, because of another act of senseless violence. The body of Kevin Shavies, age 21, was found early Sunday morning. He died of a gunshot wound to the head. The violence continues.
Later on the same day, a group of concerned residents met at the Green Island Neighborhood Center for the second public hearing on the Crompton Park Master Plan Update. Police Chief Gary Gemme attended, knowing the issue of safety would be foremost in our minds. He could give little information about the victim or the progress of the investigation, which has been given high priority, but reassured residents that police presence in Green Island would increase. Reinforcements would come, however, from the Vernon Hill neighborhood. (Union Hill is often referred to as Vernon or Oak Hill). He also asked those present to call and report if they have any information about this crime. The need for community involvement is crucial. This was something we had stressed at our own neighborhood press conference a month ago- the need for public participation in taking back our community.
I received quite a bit of feedback about my InCity Times article. I received a number of phone calls, including people from outside of Worcester, offering support and asking for progress reports. A few people stopped me on the street to say they read the article, and were appalled at the number of shootings in my area. Almost all of the neighborhood people who commented were elderly, and spoke of the fear they felt because of crimes they themselves had witnessed around them. One woman said she would not leave her house unescorted. She had heard the gunshots that claimed a victim on Fairfax Road.
Initially, we had a strong police response to our press conference. Within a week, patrol cars and police surveillance increased dramatically. On November 17, there was a police chase and shooting on lower Grafton Street, with the suspect being captured in a business parking lot. Unfortunately, the additional police will be moved to Green Island until that crime is solved. While police response was quick and effective, I was disappointed in the lack of response from elected officials. I watched two city council meetings, and not one word was said about conditions in this part of the city. How unfortunate. So what can we do as concerned residents?
My article stressed the need for coordinated efforts, between citizens, elected officials, and city services. We have to work together to improve the quality of life and make our communities safe. This includes coordination between neighborhoods as well. Crime is not contained within one neighborhood; there are no invisible boundaries restricting criminal activities and increased violence within Union Hill, Vernon Hill, Main South, Green Island, or wherever it occurs. Violence that often occurs along with crime, spreads as criminals move from one neighborhood to another. I have spoken to activists such as Bill Breault of Main South and Dave Johnson of Quinsigamond Village Community Center, as well as City Councilor Barbara Haller of the need to set up some type of network of cooperation and communication between our neighborhoods that would reinforce the work done by crime watch groups. We should be proactive, not reactive in combating violence and crime in our neighborhoods.
As an activist, I hope to continue working to make my neighborhood safe. I hope to encourage others to get involved. Join crime watches, keep an eye out for suspicious activities and report them. If you’re afraid to report a crime, ask someone to call for you. Let public officials know of unsafe conditions or problem properties that invite criminal activities. Let’s make sure our vulnerable citizens, our elderly and children, are safe. Only a united effort can reduce the crime and violence before it spreads further.