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Lenox Street gang sweep only latest in string of sweeps that have failed to end drug sales, violence in development

Map of gunfire in lower Roxbury, South End in 2014 and 2015

Map showing density of gunfire incidents in lower Roxbury, South End, 2014-2015. Blue marks Lenox Street boundaries. From an affidavit in the case.

Federal and local authorities hailed yesterday's arrests of alleged gang members at the Lenox Street development as a major blow against the crime and violence that has made residents virtual prisoners in their own homes, in a complex where gang members boldly took over entire hallways for joint-smoking parties and didn't think twice about getting into gun and knife fights.

But an affidavit by the lead ATF agent in the case paints a different picture: One of revolving-door justice where gang members get out of prison - or just skip pre-tril bail - and return to Lenox Street to pick up where they left off, selling heroin, Ecstasy, crack and guns, and defending their turf against perceived slights from other gangs leaving residents no better than before a sweep, no-trespass orders from the BHA be damned:

In 2011, the residents of Lenox contacted the Boston Police Department to request help in attacking drug dealing from the hallways and other areas of the Project. That investigation resulted in 21 arrests. In 2012, ATF and BPD did another South End investigation that resulted in more Lenox Street, Villa Victoria, and Annunciation Road Gang members being charged with drug and firearm offenses.

Unfortunately, the problems at Lenox associated with gun and drug activity have persisted. Although crime in District D-4 went down in 2015, Lenox was still considered to be one of the city's 10 hotspots for violence for that year. The Boston Police Department's Boston Regional Intelligence Center identified 30 shootings and over 75 reports of shots fired in the area of the Development between March of 2012 and June of 2015. During the course of our operations, two of the Targets were shot and a third was murdered, all around the area of the Development. BPD's BRIC has also identified Lenox as being one of several areas of the city involved in an uptick in year-end violence between December 4, 2015 and January 7, 2016, when there were 28 people shot including 5 fatal shootings and has identified the Lenox Street Cardinals as being involved in two of the City's most active gang disputes in 2015.

The Lenox Street Cardinals and smaller gangs that also operate out of Lenox have become so entrenched that the ages of the people arrested this week range from their early 20s into their 30s. And the gangs show no signs of going away, continuing to recruit young members, ATF Special Agent Peter Kelley writes. He asked a federal judge order even the youngest members held without bail, despite their lack of long records, because:

[T]he activities described herein are adversely affecting the quality of life for hundreds of people who live in and around the Development and the Targets simply will not conform their conduct to the requirements of the law.

They are also a violent bunch: Of the 19 people indicted by a federal grand jury this week, Kelley writes, 11 have been shot or stabbed, some more than once. In a 2014 YouTube video, one alleged gang member, Ellis Santos, showed off the scars from the 23 bullets he took in a single 2010 incident. In fact, the feds and BPD originally had 20 people under surveillance last year, but one got murdered.

Santos shows off scars in a 2014 rap video that feds say shows several other gang members at Lenox:

Santos shot

The sweeps were aimed at what are technically two developments next to each other between roughly Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in lower Roxbury - Lenox and Camden - and overlooking Ramsay Park, which gang members turned into an open-air drug bazaar so blatant that Mayor Walsh made cleaning the park up one of the goals in state-of-the-city address in January:

I was moved when a group of young people came to see me at Ramsay Park in the South End last summer. They told me what it was like to grow up right next door to a park that was too unsafe to use, and how they've been working to fix that. They are here tonight. I'm happy to tell them: because of your advocacy, and with your input, we are going to completely renovate Ramsay Park.

"It is ATF's hope that these investigations are a positive step in that direction," Kelley writes in his affidavit.

But Kelley's affidavit repeatedly highlights how difficult that will be, through short bios of the 19 people charged in federal court - another 8 face state charges. Typically, they have long records; many show them repeatedly returning to Lenox despite "no trespass" orders from the BHA. Take, for example, Byron Alexander, whom the indictment says goes by "Shizz," and the affidavit says is known as "Buns." He was allegedly recorded selling crack to an informant at Lenox Street last year despite a "no trespass" order by the BHA - his indictment this week was for that sale:

Approximately one hour after that buy, he was arrested on a state warrant and 21 more bags of crack cocaine were recovered from him at booking. ...

Alexander has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for a 2015 Assault and Battery, a 2011 conviction for Possession to Distribute Class D, and a 1997 group of convictions that included Involuntary Manslaughter, Armed Robbery, and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. Alexander was sentenced to 10-15 years on the latter group of convictions. BPD records also indicate that Alexander was shot in 2012 in the area of the Lenox Street Housing Development.

Or take Pablo "Migo" Moreta:

PABLO MORETA, a/k/a “MIGO” is an identified member of the Lenox Street, Mass Ave. Tremont Street, and Villa Victoria Gangs who sold Ethylone (which he described as the “pure form of ecstasy”) and two firearms (one of which was a starter pistol) to the CW inside the Lenox Street Housing Development. Moreta was shot in 2012 and ordered out of BHA Properties on January 2, 2015. His record includes 2 drug distribution convictions and he currently has multiple cases pending against him, two of which he has already admitted to committing.

Complete Lenox affidavit (7.1M PDF).

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Comments

Why are we paying for these peoples housing again? They probably have more cash than most of us.

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A key point of the affidavit is that these people are getting kicked out of BHA apartments, but keep returning to the project to hang out and shoot people. Apologies if I didn't make that clear enough by pointing it out more than once in my post.

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We are paying for their housing, weather it be them living in a project under a GFs name, relative or friend, their section 8 once kicked out or their prison cell once eventually incarcerated.

Add in healthcare, food and cash assistance they have it made.

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Until you are willing to fight the real problem behind all of this - the War on Drugs that has had criminalization of addiction and militarization against supply where a disease and public health approach combatting demand was needed - you are the naive one dear.

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That is what we call an assumption. Of course the WOD is directly intertwined in this.

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When the US criminalized alcohol, it led to violent gangs of criminals shooting each other in the streets while making insane amounts of money. So during Nixon's reign, it was decided to do it all again.

I think I put the word insane in the wrong place, there...

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NY daily news - are you sure that blabber wasn't written by that ShauChel KingLezal critter? Also, didn't Nixon also say something about that whole "keep them voting Democrat for the next 200 years" thing?

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How about UPI?
Harpers?
Reason?
Washington Post?

Face it -- they sold us a plate of BS. You don't have to keep eating it.

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Just like faux news - different color, same crap.

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....because drugs are now impacting white people more and more.

And there is no way they can be labelled criminals.

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Users are not criminals, they're suffering from a deadly disease. Dealers, on the other hand, are the ones knowingly spreading the disease and should be dealt with accordingly. Would you feel bad for someone who was going around stabbing people with an HIV-infected needle if he gets strung up on the nearest tree?

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I agree, drug addiction is a disease, like HIV, and needs to be treated. And in swirlworld, it's perfectly all right for HIV-infected folks to purposely go around and infect others and get paid while they're at it - after all, it's just a disease, amirite? No difference whatsoever between someone who suffers from it and someone knowingly infecting and eventually killing others for profit? Both are simply unfortunate HIV-infected souls and should be treated the same?

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Legalize drugs and these gangbangers will just turn to other crimes (kidnappings, armed robbery, etc).

The majority of these punks aren't smart enough for some of your ID/credit card fraud, but it is becoming more common.

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wouldn't these folks be running a small shop nearby, selling them legally? Just like a local liquor store? No need for guns or violence.

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They would move on to something else.

To wit, it would appear that everyone and their brother (except for me) wants to see marijuana legalized. The thought is that the criminal element would no longer be involved. Great, except the the criminal element would just concentrate on crack and heroin. Legalize them (which I don't think anyone wants) and the criminal element would move on to some other drug.

Legalizing gambling (see the lottery) did not end illegal gambling. In places like Amsterdam and Hamburg, legalizing prostitution did not end illegal prostitution in those areas. Yes, both has been lessened, but somehow there will always being people wanting illegal drugs. A fine example, prescription drugs. They are legal and controlled, but there is a whole market for them.

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A developed Western country decriminalized all drug use15 years ago. They have not experienced any increase in drug use, and have seen drug-related deaths decline.

Portugal, 12 Years after Decriminalizing Drugs
The article was published three years ago, and the situation is still as described then.

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Although the US is a rich country at various levels, places like Detroit, Bridgeport CT, and Camden NJ do not exist in countries like Portugal.

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Have you been there, and surveyed the place? I think you missed something.

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Have murders and assaults also gone down?

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Well, the immediate problem here are housing projects. I feel it has been pretty well shown that they don't work - by concentrating poverty into a dense area it creates a sense of hopelessness which perpetuates poverty. The ideal would be to remove housing projects and convert to mixed income housing, so the poor, middle class, and rich/market rate interact in a single community. A good/model example would, of course, be Columbia Point here in Boston. The war on drugs I think is a much broader issue, and while it is a problem, I am not sure if I would put it as the root cause in this particular situation.

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That sounds nice in fantasy world, but really, think about it, how many law abiding citizens with children and a paycheck would CHOOSE to live in an apartment complex that houses rapists, drug dealers, and gang members in the apartments adjoining theirs? Too scary. Bullet going right through to your child's bedroom? Would you live there? Don't be a hypocrite.

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i love when people bash the war on drugs as if those dealers weren't making tons of money while inflicting horrendous amounts of damage to the community.

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Make no distinction between dealers and users, to them it's all the same. And while addiction is indeed a disease that should be treated, what would we do to someone who got caught going around and purposely injecting people with HIV-infected blood?

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We'd put them on trial for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon ...

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And why did we give you a free public education to not know the difference between weather and whether?

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Yet we have been since they were kids as illustrated else where. They 'are' getting kicked out. They have not been as of yet. We should be finding them new long term public housing in Walpole but we all know that wont be happening for any meaningful amount of time.

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BhA orders them out and do NOTHING to reinforce the order. This is why they continue to return...

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BHA couldn't give two craps about what is going on, long as the paperwork is completed and the rent is (sometimes) paid.

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But here's one that's been bugging me for a while.

There are new attitudes towards law enforcement doing anything about drug dealing, typified by the book The New Jim Crow. What happened in Lenox Street is a prime example as to why activities like this need to be cracked down upon. Reading that book, you get the idea that the author has no memory of what it was like in cities across the nation back in the 1980s, and this is what people were thinking about when talk turned to the "war on drugs." This entire housing development essentially became the sovereign territory of a gang. The quality of life suffered. These guys need to be sent away for a long time. The gang needs to be destroyed.

And before someone starts going on about a certain weed, yes, you might have a point, but then again, small time dealers of that tend not to go away for long sentences as is, and I am okay with that. On the other hand, I want to see more people disappearing behind the walls at Walpole (or wherever) for heroin. Yes, treat the addicts, but disrupt the supplies, too.

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So many people forget that those tough sentences for drug dealers were born out of a time when housing developments and neighborhoods were complete war zones. They forget the families destroyed by addiction and the people forced to live in fear.

All you hear now is that the war on drugs was an evil racist plot. There comes a time when serious sentences need to be imposed and federal charges need to be leveraged, and in this case, this was the time. If these charges were all going through a Massachusetts court these people would be out in no time.

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That is not what the New Jim Crow is about. Did you actually read the whole book to understand the author's points, or did you grab this opinion from some close-minded pundit?

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I also read D'souza's book on Obama the same year. Same crap, different topic. She thought it was a good thing to be tough on crime, but decades later she saw that a side effect was to essentially disenfranchise a lot of black men. She gave a brief mention about personal responsibility. I mean, she did believe in personal responsibility, but was punishing these young men harshly really a good thing? Well, if one wants to pretend that crack and crack dealers didn't destabilize African American communities, yes, it was harsh. However, if Ms. Alexander were presented with what happened at Lenox Street, would she really think that the Feds are being harsh to these gentlemen?

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How someone ends up with the nicknames "Shizz" AND "Buns."

Those are two very butt-related nicknames...there must be an interesting back story behind them.

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Are residents actually calling the police when these parties in the hallways happen? Are they calling 911 when there is a fight, or people loitering? Or are they going to the BHA office to complain about it instead?
BHA is soft they don't address problem tenants properly. Most of these baby mommas and family members who are letting the dealers stay with them, will cry when they are told their housing is now it jeopardy. As if its this big shock and they didn't even have an idea that this might be frowned upon. BHA makes more of a point to tell you that you can't smoke in your apartment than they address criminal activity when you are signing a lease.
Residents need to be reminded to call 911 each and every time they see loitering, smell marijuana smoke in the hallway, hear a fight or whatever else it may be that is disturbing the peace. They need to report broken door locks and lights that are broken out. Highly doubt that BHA will help with that reminder. After all, most of the office staff will go home at 5pm and maintenance even earlier. What do they care?

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That would be great if BPD actually showed up. If you live in a minority area and call about loud parties, drugs being done in a parked car, suspicious vehicles, loitering, trespassing, etc... it's a waste of time. Basically unless you say you see a gun, the dispatchers don't take your call seriously and if BPD shows up at all it will be an hour or more later.

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Why do you think it's happening?

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I don't believe you. Do you live there and called and they never came?

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I lived in Allston, and I used to call in things that appeared to be out-of-control (ex: a continuous party that went on for hours every night, screaming like someone was being murdered, someone throwing lit fireworks out the window.)

The response I'd get from 911 dispatchers:

"Can you buzz the officers into the building? (No, it's the building next door.) Then we can't do anything."

"What is the exact location of the people you hear screaming like they're being attacked? Can you get them to stay where they are until the police arrive? If you can't see them, we can't send a car."

"We can't report the activity unless we have the exact apartment number, if you're across the street we can't do anything."

"The officers couldn't hear any noise from their squad car (because the noise was in an alley-facing apartment) and didn't stop."

"You say there is a trespassing homeless man covered in urine passed out in the vestibule of your building? Have you tried waking him up and asking him to leave? Could you do that before we send a car?"

So let's say people in one of these problem complexes calls the police and gets such an answer: The police can't do anything unless you go to the perpetrators, identify their exact location, ask them to stay where they are, see if they need medical attention, and then escort the police to the perpetrators. In a neighborhood where gang members openly target "snitches," will people bother calling it in? Or will they give up and just stay inside their apartment as much as possible?

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Most cops are good, regular people. We're all still responsible for our own safety, though.

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But if you put too much of a burden on the citizen to report, then the citizens will stop reporting.

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As described this is a problem with the bureaucrat dispatchers answering the 9-1-1 call, not the actual police officers themselves.

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Has their own police. They would respond first, not the BPD.

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Not true. If you call 911, Boston Police respond. There is a separate number to call housing police directly if you so desire. Housing Police are not even full time in some developments.

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What the hell are they then? Somewhere between a university police force and mere rent-a-cop security guards?

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For a bunch of criminals and so called "gangstas", they sure are obsessed with the BPD in that video.

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I think they needed to say the N-word a few more times in that video /s

seriously, every other word was N-word.

*closes youtube window*

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Maybe the BPD and the ATF should try a different strategy. The non-criminal residents deserve to feel safe in their own homes.

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You're welcome to go down there and take some of those naughty boys by the ear and pull them to the library.

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What's with all the gang garbage? This is the city that produced Guru, Edo G and Akrobatik. Use them for influence.

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The music can be a cover for where the money is coming from. Youtube will pay if you generate enough traffic. This isn't about music first and these guys don't care about good influences. They want to be the baddest and scariest and good influences or intentions can't change that.

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There were some explicit messages in that video, if not quite as explicit as the ones

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yours was my first thought when I saw mention of the video clip (haven't been able to watch yet). I didn't say anything because I just could not bring myself to believe that any other UHubbers would have heard of him.

Good on you and the (now defunct?) conscious movement!

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Akrobatik and Edo G were awesome. RIP 88.9 @ Night.

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just knowing it's in Roxbury, home of New Edition, I'd love to see guys named "Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike" as part of the gang.

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Then find a way for courts to keep the bad guys off the streets by not having a revolving door court policy

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