By Seth Daniel
It’s been a long while since a Revere police officer had a regular walking beat on Broadway, but in some of the hardest fiscal times the city has faced, a police officer is hoofing the walking beat, courtesy of private money.
Broadway has become a troublesome area for shoppers and businesses alike. Many complain about the trash and vagrants and, of course, parking.
However, recently, many have said that they have grown scared of groups of young people loitering on the corners, many times holding pit bull dogs, and some times even selling drugs or fighting.
With that in mind, a police officer has been stationed to keep peace in the businesses, but it’s not an assignment from police headquarters.
In fact, when fiscal trouble mounted earlier this year, Councillor George Rotondo put up a stink about councillors accepting the $600 per month expense account. In the end, councillors agreed to keep the money, but Rotondo said he wouldn’t accept it personally.
Instead, he began to use the money to hire a detail officer to walk the Broadway beat every Friday evening.
“I’m using my expense account money to provide a police detail on Broadway so the businesses there won’t be terrorized by some marauding teens that are on Broadway,” he said. “The reaction from businesses and citizens has been overwhelmingly positive. I’ve gotten numerous phone calls.”
He said he has been criticized for the practice, though, because some believe the move is purely a political ploy.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is. What about them?” he said. “Is it grandstanding to complain about not having enough police and then do nothing about it, or complain and do something about it…For those that call it grandstanding, I challenge them to put their money where their mouths are.”
Frankly, grandstanding or not, those in the Broadway business community and in the police department are grateful to have some help. Now, businesses in the area and the Chamber of Commerce are considering pooling their money to expand the walking beats.
“I think we can use all the help we can get, frankly,” said the chief. “We do not discourage any business from wanting to participate in funding a walking patrol.”
John Wood, of Woody’s Pizza and Liquors, said the business community has always had problems on Broadway, and the teen-agers do bother his customers – noting that he caught one teen selling and storing crack cocaine in front of his store.
“It hasn’t gotten out of hand, but it is an issue,” he said. “We’ve had this issue for years in front of the store – kids trying to get someone to buy [alcohol] for them. These kids are just being very aggressive in approaching customers. They’re accosting customers.”
However, as far as the kids being gangsters, he said that just might be perception.
“They’re the most polite group of gangsters in the history of gangsters,” he said. “They congregate and they have the look of gangsters on TV. You tell them to leave and they leave, but they always find their way back.”
Stephanie MacIssac of East Coast Realty said she isn’t so reassured by the people hanging around outside her office.
“I feel like I’m going to be robbed,” she said. “All my doors are locked. It’s not good for my business because they’re always hanging around in front of Century 21 and the convenience store…I come in some nights and I won’t go back out if I see them.”
That’s exactly why the police beat has been reassuring. However, business owners said there needs to be more of it, and they’re willing to put their money on the table.
“If we put our money together, not only do we get police presence, but we also help our police by giving them some extra work,” said Wood. “It’s a win-win. I can imagine if you get four or five businesses in one block, it could be reasonable.”
Raina Morgan, of Raina’s Hair Design Studio on lower Broadway, said there are enough characters that it makes her worry, and it does affect the business climate.
“I don’t feel fearful, but more angry and discouraged,” she said, “even though I don’t like the girls to be alone here at night. I have them lock the inside door. I guess it would be nice to have the police walk by occasionally.”
Laurie Leone, executive director of the Revere Chamber of Commerce, said they support the idea.
“The Chamber supports expanded security measures for the Broadway business district,” she said. “Public safety, consumer comfort, area reputation and property protection are all priorities that make a commercial district viable. The Chamber supports enhanced protection by means of dedicated police detail, community crime watch, private security, or any combination thereof.”
Chamber member John Verrengia, also a business owner on Broadway, said there is questionable activity in the business district and that the police detail idea deserves a closer look.
“From a practical point of view, when I walk up and down Broadway – particularly when students are out of school in the summer or after 5 p.m. in the fall or winter when it’s dark, there is an element of loitering that I’m not comfortable with,” he said. “Certainly, that needs to be addressed. If we take the police department at its word and that they don’t have the funding, the businesses are going to have to come up with a solution to survive.
“To have a detail – it has to be looked at,” he said. “If there could be a reasonable cost-sharing agreement, then maybe we should really look at that.”