Fifty-six people living in the Mass and Cass zone have accepted alternative shelter and treatment options over the past week, but for those who refuse to leave, police will begin enforcing the city’s new anti-encampment ordinance on Wednesday.
The Herald has learned that enforcement will begin at 8 a.m., a police crackdown that follows a week’s worth of city efforts to connect the area’s homeless and drug-addicted individuals with a pathway off the streets.
Boston police officers will begin taking down tents and tarps, and moving people out of the area, an effort that city officials expect will result in a “very significant reduction” in the number of tents by the end of the day, and last through Nov. 30.
“It’s about time,” said Larry Calderone, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the city’s largest police union. “This was long overdue.”
The union supported the mayor’s ordinance and understood the police commissioner’s point of view on the matter, he said, but he emphasized that the department has “always had the power to move the tents.”
“I understand the need for the ordinance,” Calderone said. “Maybe this gives us some type of superpower or better protection, but we’ve always had the ability to move the tents. So, we’re happy this day has finally come.”
City officials have stated efforts were taken to ensure the new ordinance complies with constitutional requirements, providing more protection against a potential legal challenge than what was already on the books for clearing encampments.
Police are able to take down tents and tarps, provided that individuals are offered shelter, transportation to services and storage for their belongings.
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Ricardo Patrón, a spokesperson for Mayor Michelle Wu, said outreach workers and provider partners have been at Mass and Cass since the City Council passed the ordinance last Wednesday, alerting individuals about the pending enforcement and connecting the ones who live there with shelter and treatment options.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 56 people have agreed to leave the Atkinson Street encampments, out of the 80 to 90 who have been sleeping there on a daily basis, Patrón said.
Thirty-five people have moved on to their next destination, whether it be relocation to a shelter, treatment center or low-threshold housing, or reunification with their families. Another 21 have accepted placement at one of those destinations, but are waiting on transportation and storage of their belongings, he said.
For the homeless individuals who refuse those options, or the people who come to the area to engage in criminal activity, law enforcement will begin Wednesday.
A memo was sent out to Boston Police officers Tuesday evening, detailing that enforcement, which begins at 8 a.m.
Four police officers and one supervisor from each police district in the city will be deployed to Newmarket Square to start the day. Officers will then be staged at different locations, with deployments to Atkinson Street taking place at 8 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. each day, through Nov. 30, per the memo.
While some of those officers will be tasked with taking down tents and working with city officials on enforcement of the ordinance, other response squads will be available, should there be resistance that gets out of hand, according to the memo.
City Council President Ed Flynn told the Herald last week that he expects some people may keep coming to Mass and Cass once enforcement begins, to test how serious city officials and police are about eliminating the area’s open-air drug market and violence.
Patrón said Tuesday, however, that the Wu administration isn’t expecting any resistance, physical or otherwise, on the first day of enforcement. He noted that there were no arrests the last time the mayor tried to clear out tents, shortly after taking office in January 2022.
Calderone said police are cautiously optimistic as well, stating, “We’re hopeful that there will be no resistance and that it will be peaceful compliance.”