YPI Case Study Boston: Franklin Field

Key informants witnessed the transformation of Franklin Field from initial involvement with YPI to now. Darryl Knight, a youth leader from Franklin Field, Matthew Swartz,Teen Center Director, and Joseph Robinson, Outreach Worker, narrated their experiences from the Teen Center rec room. Darryl discussed what the neighborhood was like growing up, his participation in YPI, and how YPI changed his life course. Matthew Swartz and Joseph Robinson provided a granular perspective from their daily experiences living and working in Franklin Field.

YPI Director Paul Lewis spoke about the impetus, challenges, and outcomes in Franklin Field. He suggested that LieutenantTimTorigian, the Boston police department leader integral to a decade of ongoingYPI success in Franklin Field, had valuable experience to share. From his precinct office, Torigian described the initial reluctance from Boston police to do the YPI training, and then, after they finally participated, their diehard commitment.

Franklin Field Before YPI

The Youth Police Initiative has been in the Franklin Field housing development in Boston, Massachusetts, which was once known as “Murder Corridor,” for over 13 years, thus providing fertile ground for a case study of how YPI works.

Darryl Knight grew up in Franklin Field which he described as “a big family,” but a rough neighborhood, with heavy substance use, drug sales, and fighting:

Back in the day, Franklin Field used to be bad.There used to be fights. We all knew each other, it’s like a big family, but we all fought. We were also raised around people who were selling drugs, crack heads, all of that around here. I never seen the point of—even when I was a little kid—of reppin’ [being part of the local “gang”] the area, because of the fact that we owned the area. The lifestyle I was used to was being around gang members and trying to make my way through.

Tensions Between Housing Developments

Darryl continued to discuss the dynamics of the community:

There were a lot of fights around here because you had Franklin Field and Franklin Hill. Even though they’re right down the street, they always shot at each other. Fights happened between people that were going to the same high school. Luckily for me, I was never into gang banging. I knew all the “hood” people around here, I would say “what’s up” to them, but I never had to gang bang or fight with them.

Police Attitudes:“! Dread Going There

Police Attitudes: “I Dread Going There Because I Hate It”

Lieutenant Torigian described Franklin Field before YPI. He said part of the challenge was that residents did not trust the police enough to make 911 calls:

I was involved with Franklin Field1 as a Sergeant with the community service [division]. Franklin Field is made up of 447 housing units, with 1,113 residents, 700 of those are under the age of 25. We had shootings, homicides, and the police didn’t receive one 911 call. People would get shot and we wouldn’t know until somebody found the body or would call eventually. It was sad.

No officers wanted to go to there.

When I’m told as a police officer, “Go to Franklin Field because there is a call there,” I dread going there because I hate it. In the past I have had such bad experiences in places of this sort, I carry that image with me. [But] today, if I’m going there, I might even have a cup of coffee or [stay for] something to eat, where Matthew is [in the Teen Center].

Operation Gridiron: “Before YPI our end-game stunk”

Torigian described how Federal Law enforcement swept the housing development with mass arrests and banned anyone that was on probation from living there:

Captain Claiborne was our commander at the time [when Operation Gridiron happened, and we launched YPI in our precinct]. He is now working for Harvard University. From September 2007 to May of 2008, Boston Police, federal law enforcement, FBI, US Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County Sheriff and the District Attorney’s Office, oversaw Operation

Gridiron. They arrested all drug dealers, 14 individuals taken into custody. No one was released on bail. All plead guilty, [and] received sentences ranging from 14 months to 72 months. [A] condition to their probation [was that] none were allowed back into Franklin Field or [to contact] the 30 known Franklin Field associates [involved in the drug trade].

Torigian admitted that the local precinct thought Operation Gridiron was a huge success, but in reality, the cycles of arrests and rearrests did nothing to help the community.

We thought it was absolutely incredible. Like celebrations, fantastic. In reality, before YPI, our end-game stunk. We’d go and arrest the “right guy,” and yay for us, but never tell the kids or the families why. What we found out in the community was that it was no big deal because some [other dealers] were going to replace them. We locked everyone up and we still had no community support because it was cyclical. It would happen over and over again.

Police Encounters: “It’s Burned in My Memory”

Darryl Knight explained that his negative perceptions of law enforcement came from a childhood trauma when police raided his house for drugs.

My family always sold drugs. My mom, let’s just say she was a bit on the wild side, she thought she was young forever. Her house was like a little funhouse for all her friends. She sold drugs while she had six kids in the house. [When I was five] police came and raided the house and took everybody away. Six kids got split up.

It’s burned into my memory. I woke up like just any other day, and in a split second, the door busted open, SWAT came in and I ran straight to my mom’s room. I told her “Cops are here.” And she was like, “What?” Ran out, guns pointed at them, everybody’s getting on the floor and they told everybody to come out there. Once they saw how many kids was there, they took each and every one of us away.

Darryl continued:

I didn’t get to have that family when I was younger that I see everybody having. I was raised with a different family for a year. I was like a little crybaby saying, I need my brothers. I need somebody to be with me. I can’t be alone.”They finally put my older brother with me.

Darryl moved into kinship care after his 12-year-old brother called their aunt.

My brother was like, “I can’t live like this. I don’t want to live with somebody I don’t know.” He ends up calling my aunt, and asks, “Hey, you mind if me and Darryl lives with you?” She knew what happened and said, “Perfectly fine. I’ll take you in.” I was six at that time. He was 12. He did the smart move and asked my aunt to [let us] live with her.

He did not understand why the child welfare system did not contact his relatives immediately. “They should have. Luckily my brother spoke to her, and from then on I was living with my aunt in Franklin Field.” The extent which people of color in low-income neighborhoods can trust social services like law enforcement and child welfare are germane to the objective of this book, to present a possible intervention that can bridge the chasm of distrust.

 
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