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Residents say more needs to be done to stop violence

Little League pitcher Teshawn Coleman, 12, tossed a ball with Officer Dennis Simmonds yesterday at Harambee Park. Little League pitcher Teshawn Coleman, 12, tossed a ball with Officer Dennis Simmonds yesterday at Harambee Park. (Wendy Maeda/ Globe Staff)
By Ben Wolford
Globe Correspondent / July 10, 2011

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Children are not flooding playgrounds like they used to, and the number of players in a youth baseball league has plummeted since the shooting of a 4-year-old boy two weeks ago in Harambee Park, visitors there said yesterday.

The Dorchester-Roxbury Little League, which had 200 participants, is down to about 100, mostly because parents are worried, said John Gordon, president of the league.

“Two teams showed up today; that should have been 24 children,’’ he said. “We only had eight.’’

Yesterday at the park the two baseball teams competed under the gaze of a Boston police officer in his cruiser.

“That car hasn’t moved,’’ Gordon said. “It was here yesterday, and it’s probably building dust around it.’’

Gordon and others at Harambee Park said the officer’s presence has deterred adults from congregating in a place intended for children.

“There were always cops, but not like now,’’ said Maria Tajeda, 29, who sat at Talbot Avenue and Wales Street with her three children and stepson.

A day after Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis announced a campaign targeted at gangs and patrolling playgrounds, Dorchester residents called on authorities to do more.

Six men were shot to death in the past 10 days in Boston. There have been 26 homicides in Boston since the beginning of the year - down from 32 at this time last year, police have said.

The 4-year-old shooting victim, who has been identified only as A.J. by his relatives, is talking now and doing better, his aunt said yesterday.

“He’s watching cartoons; he loves cartoons,’’ said the aunt, Lisha Pickard, 40, who lives with the boy’s family not far from Harambee Park.

After two stomach surgeries, Pickard said, he has his appetite back and “wants chicken; he loves chicken.’’ Soon, A.J. will be given a back brace and admitted to physical therapy, but she was not sure when.

“I think [police] need to do more,’’ Pickard said. “It’s not fair for the kids who can’t go to the parks. . . . They just need to get the people off the streets.’’

At four parks in Dorchester at midday yesterday, the only one with a uniformed officer stationed on patrol was Harambee Park. But the Rev. William Dickerson, pastor of nearby Greater Love Tabernacle, said he has seen an increased police presence.

A police spokesman said they have a plan that directs resources when and where they are needed.

“Our research indicates the bulk of the problems occur . . . primarily during the evening and night hours,’’ Officer Eddy Chrispin said in an e-mail. “There are officers stationed at numerous parks throughout the Dorchester area such as Harambee Park, Norfolk Park, Irma Street/Arbutus area, etc.’’

The Rev. Bruce Wall, pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester, said yesterday that it’s time for the city to put a comprehensive plan in place, guided by an independent study, that does not assume police or pastors have the answer.

The city’s promise to ramp up patrols and target gangs is “something that sounds really good . . . but none of it is going to stop the violence in this city,’’ Wall said.

“I’m afraid if we keep going, you’re going to call again next year and ask me the same questions,’’ he added.

Yesterday, Tineia Andrews, 20, of Dorchester watched her 9-year-old brother play baseball at Harambee Park and said her mother has never let him go to the park alone. Her friend, Fara Diagne, 25, was gunned down on Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury on June 17.

“I don’t think it should have taken that long, as far as [a police response] this drastic, for police to try and do their job, which is protecting their community,’’ Andrews said.

Across Dorchester yesterday, residents said they have adapted to the danger, including Osamwenyobo Odeh, 14, who was shooting hoops alone at Ceylon Park near Columbia Road.

“I leave at night because it’s not safe to play at a park at night,’’ he said. “I live at Geneva, and at night we’re always hearing gunshots.’’

And at Roberts Playground, near Washington and Ashmont streets, two Dorchester residents decried the gun violence that has persisted in their neighborhood for years, blaming it on “retaliation.’’

“You’ve got people out there that anything will tick them off, just by looking,’’ said Byran Williams, 20, who sat on a park bench with his cousin, Dwayne Williams, 34.

Dwayne Williams’s two daughters played on a swing set at the playground.

The park “is pretty much safe,’’ he said, “but as far as the main street here, anything can happen.’’

Ben Wolford can be reached at bwolford@globe.com.



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