Mass and Cass business district brings on private security guards

The new business improvement district at Mass and Cass has brought on private security to patrol the area and respond to calls from the local establishments that have long complained about property crimes in the troubled part of the city.

“I absolutely believe it will improve safety down here,” Sue Sullivan, head of the Newmarket Business Improvement District, told the Herald this week. “It’s one of those quality of life differences — people working here don’t have to worry about being approached or accosted on their way to or from work.”

The area known as Mass and Cass or Methadone Mile around the industrial Newmarket area of the South End continues to have problems with a thriving open-air drug market, where people on the street sell and use drugs and violence sometimes breaks out. Locals worry that issues will only get worse throughout the summer.

The BID contracted New England Security, whose guards there do not have arrest powers and aren’t armed, though they can “detain” people on private property as they wait for the cops to show up, said Sullivan, who’s helmed the BID since the city approved it last year. She said that in the first week security didn’t detain anyone.

“Nine times out of 10 the people are leaving,” Sullivan said of when the security guards tell people to stop loitering on private property.

She said they’ve also chased off would-be burglars and vandals, and a few times have administered Narcan, which reverses opioid overdoses.

If they come across something more serious — someone armed, a big fight or another type of a volatile situation — they are supposed to call the cops.

“We are working so closely with Boston Police on this,” Sullivan said. “This basically allows the police to do what they need to do.”

She said the idea is for this to free up police to do more serious law enforcement. The cops have said that they’ve been targeting traffickers of both drugs and people in the area, and that arrests, crimes and calls to 911 are all up this year.

The police department didn’t respond to a request for comment about the security guards. New England Security didn’t immediately respond, either, nor did the ACLU.

She said the security is present around the clock, two cars each with a guard. There’s a dispatch number businesses are supposed to call in order to have the guards show up in 5 minutes, Sullivan said.

The BID, which the city approved last year, has a budget of around $3 million, which comes from an extra agreed-upon tax levied on the businesses in the area. That cash goes to, among other things, creating a shuttle bus for local workers to and from nearby MBTA stations and for beautification efforts.

Sullivan declined to say how much money the BID is spending on security other than laughingly to characterize it as “a lot.”

(060822 Boston, MA):The scene along Mass and Cass on Wednesday,June 8, 2022 in Boston, MA. (Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

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