The party’s over: Boston Police will no longer permit crime at Mass and Cass, commissioner says

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The city’s permissive attitude toward open-air drug use and violence occurring in the Mass and Cass zone will drastically change on Nov. 1, when authorities begin enforcing a new anti-encampment ordinance, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said on Thursday.

There will be a “heavy” police presence in the area, as cops begin taking down the tents and tarps contributing to much of the crime occurring at the intersection known as Methadone Mile, Cox said at a City Hall press conference.

While he vowed to partner with the Wu administration in adhering to the spirit of the mayor’s ordinance, which is to get homeless individuals and addicts the help that they need, Cox issued this warning: People coming to Atkinson Street to engage in criminal activity will no longer encounter “an area of permissiveness.”

“We want to make it clear to the people who come to the city with a different intent, whether it’s to sell drugs or criminality, or to victimize the people that are in these areas, we’re not going to allow that,” Cox said.

Sue Sullivan, head of the area’s Newmarket Business Improvement District, said her cohort welcomes the additional police enforcement.

“Everyone thinks that they can come down there and it’s one big party,” she said.

Cox and Sullivan joined Mayor Michelle Wu in providing an update on her three-pronged approach for tackling crime and homelessness in the troubled area, following a Wednesday vote from the City Council to approve an anti-encampment ordinance she filed in late August.

Wu said the city is distributing written notices in 11 different languages to people living at Mass and Cass, informing them that enforcement will begin on Nov. 1. The number of people sleeping there fluctuates between 80 to 90 on a daily basis, the city’s Mass and Cass coordinator Tania Del Rio said.

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Sheila Dillon, the city’s chief of housing, said more than 100 shelter beds have been set aside for next week for individuals displaced by the ordinance. A temporary 30-bed overflow shelter, as part of the mayor’s plan, has opened nearby on Massachusetts Avenue.

The ordinance gives police the authority to remove tents, provided that individuals are offered shelter, transportation to services, and storage for their belongings. It also eliminates the 48-hour heads up police were required to give before removal.

After Nov. 1, Del Rio said the city expects the encampments at Mass and Cass to “be reduced very, very significantly.”

“(Wednesday’s) vote from the City Council to pass an ordinance enables the administration to move with more immediacy in our response,” Wu said. “Our goal is to permanently shift the dynamic on the street and in the surrounding neighborhood and citywide, to be safer and healthier for everyone.”

People change their clothes along the Mass and Cass tent city this week. That could soon end. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

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