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Boston mayor sounds alarm over growing danger in city’s Meth Mile

Mayor Michelle Wu said first responders, health professionals have encountered crowds of over 200 in the Mass and Cass area

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Meth Mile near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston.

Reba Saldanha/Boston Herald

By Gayla Cawley
Boston Herald

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said conditions around Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue have reached “a new level of public safety alarm” over the past several weeks.

Wu said first responders, health professionals and outreach workers regularly encounter crowds of more than 200 people, an “untenable” situation exacerbated by the drug and human trafficking and violence that takes place along the troubled Mass and Cass area.

“In the last month or so, especially in the last couple of weeks, it has gotten to a new level of public safety alarm,” Wu said on Wednesday. “All of the non-city teams have said in the last few weeks the situation has gotten so dangerous that we are pulling our people out — we cannot be in there.”

Wu’s remarks, made on a “Java with Jimmy” podcast, come after the city’s police and firefighters have cited dangerous conditions along Methadone Mile, particularly from potential exposure to uncapped, hypodermic needles discarded after drug use.

The risk prompted a state lawmaker, Sen. Nick Collins, to file a bill that would provide coverage for first responders who become ill from on-the-job exposure to uncapped needles.

“Mass and Cass is out of control,” Collins told the Herald last month, referring to the area as an “infectious petri dish.”

A Wu spokesperson said the mayor was also referring to data on the city’s Mass/Cass Dashboard, which shows the number of EMS incidents there sharply increased in April and continued to rise in June and July.

The city’s largest police union, the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association tweeted a video of tents pitched along a street in the area on Monday, saying the “deplorable conditions” at Mass and Cass continue.

“What began as a health crisis has morphed into a hotbed of criminal activity where those who should be protected are, instead, victimized by drug-dealing felons every day,” the union wrote. “Putting a fence around doesn’t make it any better.”

Wu said Wednesday that the tents “continue to be a challenge” in that they prevent those who respond to the area from seeing the activity that is occurring inside. This includes “drug trafficking, human trafficking, and violence,” along with the potential storage of weapons, she said.

“We’re planning to take a major step in trying to make sure that we are addressing that properly, and supporting our law enforcement side with the ability to better maintain public safety,” Wu said. “It’s gotten to the point where even those who are experts and do this every day have said it’s reached a new level that’s untenable.”

The mayor did not elaborate on what that plan would entail, and her office declined to comment on the matter.

Wu tried to ban the homeless from pitching tents along Mass and Cass in May, but the order did not carry much weight with people in the area who unabashedly continued to set up their makeshift shelters.

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RELATED: Lawmakers point to Boston’s ‘Methadone Mile’ in needle-stick bill for first responders

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