As Chelsea’s downtown and adjacent neighborhoods have become more vibrant and desirable, one persistent problem has been the congregation of n’er-do-wells outside to City Hall in Bellingham Square.
While many try to do business, get to college classes, wait for the bus or take their children to the library – a large and growing group of people congregate on the benches of the Square and drink in public, sell drugs, buy drugs, use drugs and – most unfortunately – use the bathroom in public.
This past week, though, Chelsea Police, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, Attorney General Martha Coakley and City Manager Jay Ash forged a partnership to clean up just such problems with absolute enforcement, a ton of arrests and a clear message that Bellingham Square is no longer the region’s playground for nuisance criminals and drug users/pushers.
Some 48 people were arrested in all and 14 were indicted. At the beginning of the week, at least seven people were still being sought in the operation – dubbed Operation Streetsweeper II.
Most of those arrested were Chelsea residents, but others came from Revere, Everett and even as far away as Gloucester and Milford. The vast majority were drug dealers who have previously been convicted of drug dealing, prostitutes who have frequently been arrested for prostitution and drug users who have been in and out of the system for years.
The difference this time is that the multi-level partnership went deep, and undercover drug buys began last May in Bellingham Square. All of those detailed investigations and undercover buys in and around the Square came to a head last week when police filed the charges, made the arrests and moved forward with numerous indictments.
“I’m proud of our drug unit and all those in our police department that supported this past week’s operation,” said Ash. “There’s no one more frustrated about the street level drug dealing that seems to be prevalent in so many communities now than those officers who are out there daily to keep our streets free from such activity. I know that the success of this operation is a direct reflection on our department and a strong message to those who engage in criminal activity that we are focused on and capable of keeping Bellingham Square and all of our neighborhoods free of their criminal acts.”
Police Chief Brian Kyes said the mobilization shows that the City and the Police are serious about cleaning up Bellingham Square and keeping it free of the riff-raff.
“Chelsea Police have a commitment to the people and businesses in Bellingham Square and across the city,” Chief Kyes said. “This operation will benefit them and the entire region by taking repeat offenders out of neighborhoods that belong to the good and decent people of Chelsea. I’m proud of the CPD officers who invested so much time and effort in this investigation, and I’m grateful to the State troopers and Suffolk prosecutors who helped us achieve these results.”
City Councillor Leo Robinson said the City can no longer tolerate what goes on in Bellingham Square, especially if the Council continues on with its priority of improving the downtown area.
“We have to look at every resource we have and every initiative we can take to address drugs in our community from both the public safety and public health perspectives,” he said. “We can’t tolerate any level of drug activity, so policing remains critical. But we also need to help kids avoid the temptation to start and find meaningful ways to intervene in the lives of those that are addicted and their families. Our entire community needs to stay focused on what drugs can do to our community. The police operation is an important part of that focus, and our entire department should be congratulated for that effort.”
Ash says the frustrating aspect of the build up to the operation is that many see, and may even report, the illegal activity and believe nothing is happening. “It takes multiple efforts to develop the trust of the drug dealers and then make repeated buys in order to secure the evidence we need for convictions,” he said. “Chief Kyes and his men and women are doing great work, but that work can often go unseen and, therefore, underappreciated for long periods of time. Making 48 arrests, though, shows what our drug unit and those supporting it are doing on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.”
Ash added that his request – and the Council’s approval – to double the budget of the CPD Drug Unit two years ago played no small role in the effort, as well as those in the recent past and in the not-too-distant future.
Since last Tuesday, July 23rd, teams of Chelsea and State Police made the arrests, and several more targets are still being sought by the State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section.
Arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday and Thursday, July 24th and 25th, on indictments charging distribution of a Class A substance, distribution of a Class B substance, or both were:
•Ramon Avila, 65, of Chelsea
•Donnell Bailey, 42, of Malden
•Jose Caraballo, 34, of Chelsea
•Wayne Clark, 56, of Dorchester
•Edwin DeJesus, 33, of Chelsea
•Hector Lopez, 34, of Chelsea
•Dennis Smith, 54, of Chelsea
These defendants were held on bails ranging from $7,500 to $75,000. Also indicted in Suffolk County but currently in custody in another county is Charles Munzing, 60, of Revere.