Taming ?The Wedge?

Hyannis has been overtaken by its“Brockton-by-the-Sea” reputation
The time for this to change is now

Cape Cod Today readers are well aware of “TheWedge” aka “The Triangle” aka “Captains Quarters”in Hyannis.  It is an area roughly bordered by Route 28, Walton Avenue andBearse’s Way, often spilling over into the other side of Bearse’sWay in the vicinity of General Patton Drive and the former Hyannis EastElementary School.

"The Wedge".

Best known as the scene of two recent murders where theperpetrators discharged firearms into a dwelling, The Wedge also witnessed afire bombing that featured Molotov Cocktails being thrown into a dwelling wherechildren slept and numerous police calls involving violence, drugs and domesticcomplaints.  The apparent vortex of the crime wave sweeping downtownHyannis, The Wedge is a major contributor to the damage downtown Hyannis hasdone to the tourism industry Cape-wide.

The recent shootingof Todd Lampley seems to have brought the problems to a head at longlast.  Police presence in that area has become “24/7”. Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald was quoted today saying that an arrestis near in the Lampley murder.  However we were disappointed to hear thechief speak about the admittedly heavy expense of this kind of policing whilehe at the same time implied that the 24/7 policing will be dialed back afterLampley’s alleged murderer is taken into custody.

The Wedge has caused damage downtown Hyannis and tourism industry Cape-wide.

On the one hand, we bow to Chief MacDonald for presumablysolving this crime so quickly and for saturating The Wedge with police for thepast four weeks.  On the other hand, we are disappointed at hisimplication that saturation policing will end once an arrest is made in theLampley matter.

In the days following the “Nightmare on FreshHoles” we were pleased to see the police canvassing the neighborhood,often accompanied by Barnstable Precinct 8 Town Councilor Debra Dagwan . It was encouraging to see countyjail inmates working hard on a physical cleanup of the neighborhood. We hear reports from The Wedge of traffic enforcement, code enforcement and avisible, heightened police presence in the trouble neighborhood.

On March 7th Cape Cod Today’s editorsinvited Councilor Dagwan to write a guest editorial about The Wedge. This, we felt, was an excellent time for Ms. Dagwan to articulate her vision onhow to lead her constituents out of the nightmare that has befallen the decent,working folk who live in The Wedge.  Sadly, Ms. Dagwan has not respondedto our invitation as of this writing, sixteen days later.  Therefore wehave picked up the thread, listened to our Hyannis readers and propose athree-pronged solution to the Nightmare on Fresh Holes. (Ms. Dagwan is stillcordially invited to submit a guest editorial to Cape Cod Today.)

First, we once again applaud the Barnstable Police for theirincreased enforcement over the past few weeks.  Police reports and courtreports cite several instances where the alleged “bad guys” havebeen busted on minor traffic violations that led to astonishing discoveries andarrests.  Unfortunately it’s going to take more than a few weeks toturn around a problem that has been festering for years. 

We propose pairs of officers walking beats throughout the neighborhood at varying times ofthe day and night.

Shock and Awe

The best way to scare away criminals, drug dealers andaddicts is to shine the bright lights on them until they slink into theshadows.  Barnstable has already started doing this.  We propose thatthe Barnstable Police continue and even escalate their enforcement efforts inThe Wedge.  In addition to frequent cruiser patrols, we propose havingpairs of officers walking beats throughout the neighborhood at varying times ofthe day and night.  For both the patrol and beat officers, absolutelyanything out of the ordinary would be questioned – unfamiliar vehicles,people loitering about and unusual activity at any of the residences would allreceive scrutiny.  The patrol and beat cops would run registrations, checkinspection stickers, verify residency and anything else necessary to ensurethat every vehicle parked in the area belongs there and isn’t visitingfor suspicious purposes.  Removal of more brush, trees and debris alongwith additional street lighting might be appropriate in some of the areas wherethe bad guys hide to conduct their business.

When something suspicious turns up on routine patrol, thepolice response must be “shock and awe” – multiple cruiserscoming in with sirens, lights and revving engines, officers coming out of sidestreets, in-the-street arrests for the TV cameras, cars being towedaway…etc. all will make the area completely inhospitable to those therefor nefarious purposes.

We propose twice-weekly spot checks of carsin The Wedge.

Once or twice a week we propose that all vehiclesdriving in The Wedge be stopped, the occupants questioned and the good,law-abiding citizens be sent on their way without further inconvenience. Those not so noble drives might start to avoid the area after these random“all-stops” are publicized in the media.

We all know that this type of long-term policing isexpensive.  If it’s the most crime-ridden part of Hyannis, surely“shutting down” The Wedge will reduce the number of police calls inother parts of town.  Over the long term, property values in theresurrected neighborhood should increase and bring improved tax revenue to thetown.

“Zero Tolerance” - Send a message to landlords in "The Wedge"

Back during Ronald Reagan’s “war on drugs”the concept of Zero Tolerance was introduced.  In short, if you wereconvicted of dealing drugs from your house, car or place of business thegovernment would seize those assets upon your conviction.  We believethose laws are still on the books today.

Another part of Zero Tolerance was that if someone else wasdealing drugs from your house and had your permission to be there (thinklandlord/tenant) the government had the ability to seize your property as adomicile for illegal activity. 

We suggest that the Barnstable Police offerfree criminal background checks for prospective tenants.

In The Wedge, we suggest that the Barnstable Police andDistrict Attorney O’Keefe send a message to landlords:  If you rentto criminals and we bust them for dealing drugs from your property, we willseize your property.  The seized property might then be rehabbed by thecounty inmates and sold off as affordable housing, with the proceeds going backto Barnstable to offset the costs of this type of enforcement.  To assistlandlords in screening applicants, we suggest that the Barnstable Police offerfree criminal background checks for prospective tenants when landlords presentproperly signed authorizations from their applicants.

Reports to IRS, DOR and DCF

If the police observe, for example, a 19 year old kid whoowns a $75,000 BMW but is not listed as employed with the Commonwealth orSocial Security Administration, that observation usually excites somecuriosity.  In addition to law enforcement having a look at the youngman’s activity, we propose that the police routinely report suchindividuals to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and the Internal RevenueService in hopes of discovering and taxing his source of income.

When the police find children living in a dangerous orneglectful situation, they’re obligated to report such cases to theDepartment of Children and Families (the old DSS).  We propose now thatthey extend that reporting to include the 19 year old BMW driver if they findhim to be residing with a young lady who receives a housing subsidy.

Personal Liberty

We realize that the level of enforcement proposed here is amighty inconvenience for Wedge residents who are where they’re supposedto be, doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’resupposed to be doing it.  We would like to think that the good citizenswho live in the Wedge won’t mind a period of inconvenience if it lessensthe possibility that a bullet might come flying through their living room orthat one of their kids might be hit by a bad guy trying to escape the police.

The Sandwich Republican Town Committee recently publicizeda scholarship where one of the essay questions was, “Under whatcircumstances would you limit personal freedoms for more security?” This is a question Wedge residents would need to ask themselves.  How muchhassle is it worth to improve your neighborhood and feel safe in your own homeagain?

The message to the bad guys must be clear andunambiguous:  You will not be tolerated in Barnstable.  Get out oftown!

We spend millions promoting Cape Tourism and it’s allwasted if Hyannis is perceived as a place of violent crime.

The Cost

Nearly everyone agrees that cleaning up The Wedge is anexpensive proposition.  We urge the Town Council to find the funds, evenat the cost of other programs.  The benefit to Barnstable far outweighsthe cost.  An aggressive clean-up of The Wedge will likely drive the badguys right out of town (perhaps to Mashpee or Yarmouth, perhaps off-Capeentirely).  This should reduce policing costs over the medium term andincrease property values in the longer term.  If it is possible for thecourts to return to the Barnstable Police the funds collected when cars,personal property and real estate is seized this would also go a long way tooff-setting the costs of such enforcement. 

If necessary we would even endorse re-directing some of theCape and Islands license plate money to law enforcement for a year ortwo.  We can spend millions promoting Cape Tourism and it’s allwasted if Hyannis is perceived as a place of violent crime, not a safe place tobring your family on vacation.  Hyannis was once the jewel in the crown ofCape Cod Tourism.  Today it has been overtaken by its“Brockton-by-the-Sea” reputation.

The time for this to change is now.

One, two, three, four.

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