A brief rash of gun violence has neighbors in the South End seeking answers and solutions to what one local organizer called a rise in "seediness."
More than 100 people were expected to turn out at an “emergency” meeting at United South End Settlements center Wednesday night, which came on the heels of a seven-day stretch that saw three shootings, one of them fatal, organizers said.
“People are feeling surprised I think, because generally the South End is not a ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’ type of neighborhood,” said Steve Fox, who heads a consortium of local groups called the South End Forum. “This is kind of a clarion call to the neighborhood: maybe there is something out there we need to look at to prevent this from happening again.”
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The most recent shooting happened on Dec. 9, when 25-year-old Wellington Ruiz of Dorchester was found suffering from gunshot wounds in a car in the area of 17B Aguadilla St. He later died, according to a police report.
A Boston Police spokesman could confirm only the Dec. 9 shooting for Metro, though it's possible there were other reports of shots fired not listed in BPD's database as shootings.
Ruiz had previously been part of a USES workforce readiness program, according to Nikki Stewart, the organization’s development director.
South End resident Tacara Guice, 28, said she is well aware of violence happening in her neighborhood.
"I'm used to it," Guice told Metro, standing next to a memorial for the late Ruiz, adding that she hears gunshots once every few weeks. "It just seems like it got worse, I don't know."
Guice said the area needs a bigger police presence, and said, "I think everybody should come together as one."
In a message earlier this week, USES CEO Maicharia Weir Lytle said the shootings “are not random; rather, they are part of larger systemic issues USES and our nonprofit partners are trying to address."
“While we have concerns about our own safety and that of our families, we need to also remember to show compassion towards those involved,” Lytle wrote.
Expected at the meeting were neighborhood associations and other groups as well as local elected officials, law enforcement and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. An invitation had also been extended to Mayor Marty Walsh, but Walsh's office told Metro he was not able to attend.
"We are very concerned with the issues and we are looking for collective solutions to the problem," said Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, a South End nonprofit.
Fox told Metro he and others planned to call for investments like added security cameras and more regular bicycle police presence in certain hot spots where there has been an “increase in the seediness factor” – parks and street corners where he said there has been an uptick in drug use, a growing unsheltered homeless population and an increase in the number of discarded needles left on the ground.
Community members also want updates on whether the shootings are connected to gang activity, and whether the trio of alleged attacks might be related, Fox said.
But police and surveillance are only part of the solution, he said, adding that youth outreach, shelters and other programs need to be priorities, and may need more funding.
“Shelters are being maxed out,” Fox said. “The resources of the community are being stretched beyond breaking.”
The meeting was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the United South End Settlements Arts Center at 48 Rutland Street.
There have been 34 homicides reported in Boston so far this year. There were 53 homicides in Boston in 2014, according to BPD statistics.