Following a shooting that occurred at the South Shore Plaza earlier this month, town officials are meeting to discuss how to improve security at the mall. The meeting between South Shore’s General Manager Rick Tonzi, the town’s mayor Joseph Sullivan, and Chief of Police Paul Shastany is not the first of its kind to discuss the incident. On Wednesday, Tonzi refused to attend a meeting of the town council’s public safety committee, emailing the following statement about the policies of the mall’s owner, Simon Property Group: “Simon does not publicly comment on what we do and don’t do on security at South Shore Plaza.”
Tonzi’s failure to attend the town council meeting was met with displeasure by Town Councillor, Charles Kokoros. “I think it’s a little disrespectful to the council and the committee,” he said. The shooting, which occurred in the shoe department of the Macy’s store, is believed to be linked to Boston gang rivalries. According to investigators, previously “neutral” territories have become fair game in these gang wars.”It’s a serious incident and we’re treating it very seriously,” said Sullivan.
A statement from mall management claims that management has a good relationship with the mayor’s office and Braintree police and that it practices joint training exercises with law enforcement “to ensure that all organizations are adequately prepared in emergency response procedures.”
Town Councillors and attorneys for the mall believe that the shooting was an isolated incident that happened in the mall, but not because of the mall. Even so, it’s a grave reminder that previously “safe spaces” can become dangerous if gang activity is not kept in check. “Wherever they encounter, that’s the venue for violence,” said Shastany.
What is the Solution?
Dealing with the underlying issue of gang violence is paramount to improving safety in Boston and the surrounding areas. But this is not a problem that can be eliminated overnight. In the meantime, South Shore Plaza and similar shopping centers can take safety precautions to protect customers and the general public. Kokoros would like to see increased law enforcement presence and security cameras at South Shore Plaza, for instance. Currently, there are three police officers on duty at the mall.
And the argument for more cameras may be a good one. According to Shastany, pictures from the existing security cameras were instrumental in identifying shooting suspect Michael J. Spence. The 24-year-old Quincy man is facing firearms charges for his role in the shooting.
The Rise in Gang Violence
Fortunately, no one was injured in the South Shore Plaza shooting, but gang violence is on the rise in Boston and the surrounding areas. Consider the violent street gang, MS-13, whose motto is “Mata, viola, controla” or kill, rape, control. MS-13 is based in El Salvador and has about 30,000 members worldwide, many in the Boston area. MS-13 targets young people, often as young as 14 or 15. To become a “homeboy” the young person is told to commit a serious crime, sometimes the murder of a rival gang member. If you are worried that a child or loved one has been swept up in this kind of violence and crime, it is in your best interest to contact a MA criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Due to their young ages, gang members may be able to avoid jail time and the more severe penalties reserved for adults. However, without the help of a skilled Boston criminal defense attorney, violent offenders may still be tried as adults. Continue reading