Foot Patrols Give Officers a Leg Up: Early Results Are Positive; Candidates Disagree with Ambrosino’s Stance

No matter who is elected mayor in November, it appears that there will be a change in philosophy when it comes to police foot patrols on Broadway.

Two weeks ago, Councillor Dan Rizzo put in a late motion at the Council meeting calling for an immediate foot patrol to be instituted on Broadway, saying that the city’s main thoroughfare needed a more visible police presence sooner rather than later.

Mayor Tom Ambrosino and Police Chief Terence Reardon accommodated that request last week, and the foot patrols have already been meeting with early successes.

“We have been selectively putting an officer on Broadway during certain hours,” said Police Capt. Michael Murphy. “It has in fact netted some early results. In addition to arrests that have been made, officers have had several contacts with criminal elements in the area. It is our hope to have a presence in the area during the favorable weather. It should serve to make older citizens feel more comfortable, while letting others know that the police are interested in their activities.”

Rizzo said he was glad to see that the police took the recommendation and implemented it.

“There is no doubt in my mind that beat cops are effective,” he said this week. “There is no replacement for a physical presence in high traffic areas to make people feel safe. In addition, as their early successes have indicated, it can be very effective to weed out individuals who are participating in illegal activities. Police officers will often tell you that just having a police officer present at a paid detail is effective as they provide additional eyes and ears of trained law enforcement. This will continue to be a priority of mine if elected mayor.”

Rizzo, who owns and operates a business on Broadway, has long been discussing the idea of making Broadway more welcoming for businesses and their customers. Netting the foot patrol last week was a pretty big score for the Council and for Councillor Rizzo.

Rizzo’s opponent, Councillor George Rotondo, also heavily favors foot patrols on Broadway.

A few years back in 2009, after being shot down in his request for a foot patrol, Rotondo actually used part of his Council expense account to selectively hire a police detail. During that detail, the officer walked strategic locations of Broadway where drug dealing was going on in broad daylight.

“I am in favor of foot patrols and I think it allows officers to engage more people,” said Rotondo this week. “I like the idea of mobile foot patrols. We’re going to have casinos. I’d like to take that money and open a substation on Broadway – maybe at the old taxi stand – and have them use that as a base. It makes sense to me to have an officer walk a foot patrol, get in his cruiser and drive to another area of the city to walk another foot patrol. I think that mobile foot patrols would work well here.”

Both philosophical positions by the two mayoral candidates are in stark contrast to the philosophy Mayor Tom Ambrosino has had throughout his tenure in the mayor’s office.

Ambrosino has rebuffed the idea of foot patrols despite numerous Council and citizen requests, and said this week that he still thinks they are more for show than anything else.

“A lot of that is for show I think, but there is something to be said for making people feel better,” he said. “I’m kind of agnostic on it. I’m not sure it does anything more than make people feel good. We did have the extra overtime available this year what with all the vacancies and so I told the chief we should do it.”

The early results of that decision seem to be very tangible, as one officer walking Broadway last Monday, October 3, eliminated one major quality of life issue right off the bat.

Officer David Caramanica was walking the patrol around 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 3 across from City Hall when he observed a suspicious trio.

One man was pacing back and forth, and bothering pedestrians by asking them unwanted questions.

The officer asked the pacing man what he was doing, upon which time he moved towards a nearby van and appeared to signal to two people inside.

The officer looked inside the van and allegedly observed the two people just about to shoot up heroin with an intravenous needle.

One woman had blood coming from her wrist, and there was a syringe in the van loaded with a drug and some blood.

The officer ordered all three to step away from the van.

One of the men told the officer that they used the van to collect scrap metal in order to sell it. Officers on the scene found drug paraphernalia and arrested all three people.

Carla Gioe, 47, of Malden, and Robert King, 42, of Malden were charged with illegal possession of a Class A drug (heroin). Joseph Ardolino, 43, of Everett, was arrested on a warrant.

It wasn’t a major drug bust, but police all agreed that it was a victory for quality of life – for those bothered by people shooting heroin in broad daylight as they tried to walk by – and certainly a change in policing policy as the current administration begins to change hands.

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