BOSTON — Parents and kids who frequent Clifford Park in Roxbury say they feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle against littered needles and open drug use.
Boston 25 News has been reporting on the issues plaguing Clifford Park and the surrounding area for years now.
Community activist and Boston Bengals Pop Warner football coach Domingos DaRosa says the problems “seem even worse lately.”
The Bengals changed their practice location away from Clifford Park last year due to open drug use.
They’ve since returned to reclaim their neighborhood park.
“I have to literally take an hour before practice to pick up needles,” said DaRosa. “We’re witnessing folks defecating, performing sexual acts, selling drugs on a regular basis.”
DaRosa collected 15 discarded needles on Wednesday while Boston 25 News was filming.
The Boston Bengals, ranging in age from 5 to 14, practice at the park five days a week.
“They don’t even call it Clifford Park anymore. They call it ‘Crackhead Park’! That’s bad. That’s real bad,” said Kelvin Bell, who coaches kids 12 and under for the Boston Bengals.
The coaches for Boston Bengals believe the daily array of littered needles and people openly using drugs is impacting enrollment.
“Every day from an incident, we’re losing three to four kids,” explained DaRosa. “It’s not fair, especially to children.”
Neighbors who use the park to exercise and for other activities say they are concerned for their safety.
“If anything happens, I need to protect myself no matter what,” said 76-year-old Israel Rodriguez.
Rodriguez now walks through the park in the morning and evening with a blade in his keychain after he was recently grabbed by a stranger.
“The guy grabbed me, and I said, stay away. He tried to push me,” said Rodriguez. “One swing, and he can kill me.”
A city of Boston spokesperson told Boston 25 News that the Recovery Services outreach team canvases the neighborhood every morning and afternoon and started prioritizing Clifford Park and area schools, as well as South End, Newmarket, and Roxbury.
The city says its Mobile Sharps Team responds to 311 calls and requests seven days a week and also performs proactive clean ups in certain areas.
“The City of Boston is focused on addressing the crisis in this area through equity-focused, public health-led policies that address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, substance use disorders, and behavioral health issues. The Mayor’s Office, BPHC, BPD, Boston Parks & Recreation and several other departments are working collaboratively on this effort in the Mass and Cass neighborhood,” said a statement from the city.
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