If you speak to anyone familiar with Boston’s “Methadone Mile” they’ll all tell you the same thing, it’s sad and scary at the same time. The stretch of road near Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard earned its new moniker the hard way, by quickly becoming a known refuge for drug addicts.
The real issues behind Boston’s Methadone Mile
In fact, according to the BRIC (Boston Crime Incident Reports) there have been 229 medical/drug-related calls to Methadone Mile just this year. For 2018, there were 185 reports total. In contrast, the entire year of 2016 there were only 31.
If you speak to police officers about it, they’ll tell you their findings. A majority of the people seeking refuge at Methadone Mile have criminal records. Many are not from Massachusetts; hailing from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, usually. The population on the mile has continuously increased.
On Methadone Mile, heroin goes for about a third of the normal street price. According to law enforcement sources, people arrested on the Mile (and adjoining back streets) are commonly found with numerous food assistance (EBT cards) on their person. “It happens all the time. Some of them will tell you they came to Massachusetts for just the benefits. Then they trade cards for drugs.”
The Mile and nearby backstreets in the area are littered with tents, trash, syringes, food, people sleeping, and even human waste. One passerby loudly commented “hey, at least they’re not [expletive]ing on the sidewalk again.”
Officers (speaking on condition of anonymity) expressed that they have trouble handling the area. They feel as though they will be met with public outrage if they actively police the people living there, or that if they do arrest criminal offenders they will not even be prosecuted. “What do you do at that point? You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t,” one officer said.
DA Rachel Rollins relayed in a tweet that, “we cannot arrest our way out of a health and resource crisis.” Rollins has been plagued with criticism after refusing to prosecute and/or “CWOFing” (continuing a case without a finding) criminal charges, often levied against repeat offenders.
So what do we do? Certainly the area has become a public safety and health risk, especially following the brutal attack on a corrections officer, who was pulled out of his car and assaulted while driving through the area.
At this point, sadly, the police officers patrolling the area are at a loss. Officer morale, in general, is at a low. They feel unsupported, and often blamed, for issues that are trickling down from the top. “I’m risking my life every day to run in circles, because the same perp I arrested yesterday is going to walk right by me today.”
As far as I see, there seems to be no immediate solution in sight.