Six members of the violent, transnational organization known as “La Mara Salvatrucha” or “MS-13” were indicted Nov. 28 in federal court in Boston with racketeering – with five charged in the murder of a teen last summer.
As alleged in the indictment, as part of the racketeering conspiracy, five of the six defendants participated in the murder of a teenage boy in Lynn, on or about July 30, 2018.
The indictment charges the following members of the Sykos Locos Salvatrucha clique:
Erick Lopez Flores, a/k/a “Mayimbu,” 29, of Lynn;
Henri Salvador Gutierrez, a/k/a “Perverso,” 19, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Somerville;
Eliseo Vaquerano Canas, a/k/a “Peligroso,” 19, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Chelsea;
Jonathan Tercero Yanes, a/k/a “Desalmado,” 21, a Salvadoran national previously residing in East Boston;
Marlos Reyes, a/k/a “Silencio,” 22, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Chelsea; and
Djavier Duggins, a/k/a “Haze,” 29, of Lynn.
The indictment also mentions an unnamed juvenile, who has been separately charged in a sealed information, as required by federal law.
Duggins was arrested Nov. 30 and will appear in federal court on Nov. 29, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. The five defendants accused of murder are currently detained on state charges or in immigration custody, and will appear in federal court in the days ahead.
As alleged in court documents, on Aug. 2, 2018, law enforcement officers responded to Henry Avenue Playground in Lynn, where a civilian had encountered the dead body of a young boy lying in a wooded area. Based on the condition of the body, it appeared that the victim had been murdered a few days prior to when the body was discovered.
It is alleged that Lopez, Salvador, Vaquerano, Tercero, and Reyes murdered the victim with premeditated malice, and with extreme atrocity and cruelty. The evidence includes a recording of Salvador allegedly describing the murder in graphic detail, including how he, Vaquerano, Tercero, and Yanes stabbed the victim numerous times while Lopez assisted. The recording also described Duggins as being a leader of the clique. The victim was allegedly targeted because the gang believed the victim had been cooperating with law enforcement.
“MS-13 is a ruthless, transnational gang operating in our backyard,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “This group routinely commits senseless acts of violence, including murder, to maintain control and instill fear. Dismantling MS-13 in Massachusetts and elsewhere is a top priority of the Department of Justice. Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies will continue working together to investigate and hold MS-13 members responsible for these heinous crimes.”
“The murder of 17-year old Herson Rivas is another sobering example of the savagery of MS-13, the ruthlessness of its members, and the utter disregard they have for law and order, our communities, and the opportunities afforded to them while here in the United States. This barbaric behavior cannot and will not be tolerated, and law enforcement at all levels will continue to use all available resources, aggressively exploit all available intelligence, and work as one integrated team with the sole intention of preventing additional murders or future acts of violence,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “I commend the FBI’s North Gang Task Force for their unwavering pursuit of MS-13, the tremendous work conducted by our federal, state and local law enforcement partners regarding this threat, and the proactive efforts undertaken to move and share intelligence, all in an effort to stem the flow of violence. There is no place in society for MS-13—their violence and tactics need to be stopped—and this gang must be dismantled at all levels.”
According to court documents, MS-13 is a violent street gang whose branches or “cliques” operate throughout the United States, including Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence against rival gang members to gain promotions and to maintain membership and discipline within the group. Specifically, MS-13 members are required to attack and murder rival gang members whenever possible, and to attack and murder those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. MS-13 often recruits younger members from schools and communities with large immigrant populations from Central America.
The charge of RICO conspiracy typically provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. However, Lopez, Salvador, Vaquerano, Tercero, and Reyes face up to life in prison because their racketeering activity involved murder.
There were more than a few big news items in Chelsea this year.
In fact, there were too many to include in a review of the year in news as the city began to move faster and faster throughout the year.
Here is a sprinkling of some of the top news items from the Chelsea Record in 2017:
• Chelsea High students returned in January to a fly-free building. Student had missed a substantial amount of school in December due to a fly epidemic in Chelsea High. Work crews used the Winter Break to fix the problem.
• Chelsea the Sanctuary City was upended and scared for what the future might hold when new President Donald Trump issues an executive order in January to defund Sanctuary Cities. Chelsea and Lawrence quickly file a lawsuit to prevent the order from being acted upon. The order was later ruled unconstitutional by an Appeals Court on the West Coast.
• On Feb. 16, more than 41 businesses in the Broadway area close down for the day and more than 2,000 students are absent from Chelsea Public Schools during the national Day Without an Immigrant protest. The streets are eerily quiet in the normally bustling Broadway business district.
• The new FBI Boston headquarters holds its official ribbon cutting ceremony after having been open four months on March 7. Former FBI Director James Comey – then the director – was on hand to welcome Chelsea officials and regional law enforcement to the ceremony.
• The Homewood Suites Hotel and Function Room opens in March to the public and its owner, Colwen Hotels, pulls a building permit in the same month to begin construction on a new hotel on Broadway at the Revere/Chelsea line. The hotel continues to be under construction.
• A Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) plan to redevelop the Central Avenue housing development with private developer Corcoran is shot down by a vote of the City Council on April 24 due to Corcoran asking to be permitted to use some non-union workers on the job. An amended plan for the development is expected in 2018.
• The Chelsea Police and community/business leaders launch a new Downtown Task Force on May 1. Four beat officers have been assigned to the Broadway corridor and will meet with residents, City departments and business owners once a week.
• Scores of MS-13 members from Chelsea and surrounding areas – including multiple admitted murderers – begin to plead guilty to charges against them in Boston Federal Court. By year’s end, 27 of 61 individuals indicted in the three-year investigation have plead guilty.
• A huge debate breaks out over the summer in the midst of the Re-Imagining Broadway initiative about whether Broadway should become a two-way street in the business district. The matter has not been settled as of yet. It has been one-way for more than 50 years.
• Gov. Charlie Baker commits to funding a new $199 million Quigley Hospital at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home during a press conference in May. Later in the summer, the plan draws major controversy when it is revealed that the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower must come down to make way for the new hospital. The water tower is seen as a symbol of the City for many.
• In another blow to tradition, the historic Chelsea Clock building on Everett Avenue comes down in October to make way for more than 700 units of apartment dwellings.
• Chelsea High School graduates 309 students on June 11 at commencement. It is the largest class in more than 15 years.
• Three incumbent councillors announce before summer recess that they will not run for re-election. They include Dan Cortell, Matt Frank and Paul Murphy.
• Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home on Lafayette Street celebrates a $16 million renovation project on June 21 with a huge ribbon cutting celebration.
• The Chelsea Fire Department gets a federal SAFER grant to add eight new members to the Fire Department. It adds to two new positions already committed to by the City. The 10 new firefighters are sworn in on Nov. 20. It is the largest expansion of the Fire Department contingent since receivership in the 1990s.
• Outdoor seating on Broadway is approved for area establishments. The new Ciao Market leads the way by putting a seating area on the sidewalk in Chelsea Square – a pioneering move for the City.
• The MassDOT Board approves a plan for major, multi-year rehabilitation work on the Mystic/Tobin Bridge and the Chelsea Viaduct. A vigorous debate over construction impacts and the scope of the project ensues between MassDOT and City officials.
• A group of Chelsea stakeholders and City officials announce that the City has won the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize at a Sept. 20 Chamber of Commerce meeting. The victory comes after nearly a year of planning, submissions and site visits. It comes with a $25,000 cash prize and a substantial amount of cache.
• CAPIC human services celebrates 50 years as a service provider in Chelsea, Winthrop and Revere. The Chelsea-based organization celebrates with a grand gala that united new and old members of the organization.
• The community rallies around families, friends and strangers facing catastrophe in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria hits the island in the fall. Many residents flock to the Chelsea Collaborative to work in the relief efforts as a way of coping with the stress of not hearing from relatives.
• Three new councillors are elected to the City Council in the Nov. 7 City Election, including Calvin Brown, Bob Bishop and Joe Perlatonda. All three, however, have served previously on the City Council or former Board of Aldermen.
• The MBTA announces in December that most Silver Line Stations are nearing completion and service on the new Bus Rapid Transit line could begin as soon as April 2018. The new line will be known a SL3 and will go from the Market Basket Mall to the Seaport, via Logan Airport.
Describing it as a “wonderful thing” on FBI surveillance tapes, the cold-blooded murderer of Irvin Depazm, 15, of Chelsea, has now been brought to justice.
An MS-13 member pleaded guilty on Thursday, Dec. 14, in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of a 15-year-old boy in East Boston.
Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” 23, a Salvadoran national formerly residing in East Boston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for March 22, 2018.
Martinez was identified as a member of MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique, which operated in Chelsea, Everett, and elsewhere in greater Boston.
Martinez admitted that on Sept. 20, 2015, he murdered a Depazm, 15, on Trenton Street in East Boston.
In recorded conversations between Martinez and a cooperating witness, Martinez acknowledged being a member of MS-13 and admitted that he stabbed the victim to death. Specifically, Martinez said, “I stabbed the (expletive deleted) three times, and it was a beautiful thing! Just beautiful!”
As a result of the murder, Martinez was “jumped in” and made a “homeboy,” or full member of MS-13, during a ceremony that was surreptitiously recorded by federal agents. When a prospective member is “jumped in,” members of the MS-13 clique beat the new member with their hands and feet while one of the leaders of the clique counts aloud slowly to 13.
After a three-year investigation, Martinez was one of 61 individuals named in a superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. Martinez is the 27th defendant to plead guilty in this case.
Martinez faces up to life in prison, five years of supervised release, and will be subject to deportation upon the completion of his sentence.
Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins and the Department recently welcomed a new group of interns for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Summer Enrichment Program.
Now in its third year, the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) was created by Sheriff Tompkins in the summer of 2014 as a means of not only providing summer employment to Suffolk County teens, but also to give those interested in a career in law enforcement the opportunity to learn about the many branches of law enforcement and criminal justice through job shadowing, weekly presentations by members of law enforcement and the criminal justice community, roundtable discussions, law enforcement-related field trips, and educational tours.
Once again opening this year’s program, Sheriff Tompkins welcomed the group and spoke about the inspiration behind the creation of the program, and also about his expectations for the program’s participants.
“I am thrilled to be able to welcome you here to the third year of our Summer Enrichment Program,” Sheriff Tompkins told the group. “When we first initiated this program three years ago, we had several goals that we wanted to achieve with it. The first one was, of course, to provide Suffolk County students with employment to keep them off the streets and positively focused.
“Our second goal,” Sheriff Tompkins continued, “was to identify young people who were seriously interested in pursuing a vocation in one of the many sectors of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The final, but equally important goal was to bring officers, attorneys, FBI agents, judges and other representatives of the law face-to-face with young people of all backgrounds so that they could have dialogue, learn from and build trust with one another, particularly in light of recent events around the country.”
Nashua Street Jail Superintendent and Special Sheriff Eugene Sumpter also presented to the students, and – as it has been in past years – for the next seven weeks, SEP members will meet with representatives from organizations that include the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations), U.S. Marshals, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police Department, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, the Boston Fire Department, the Massachusetts Governor’s Office, the Office of the Mayor of Boston, the courts, and others.
“As each of you look around this room at your fellow SEP members, remember that you were chosen to participate from the larger pool of applicants because of your interest and because of your professionalism,” said Sheriff Tompkins. “Seven weeks may seem like a long time, but before you know it, the program will be over and you’ll be back in school. You have a wonderful opportunity to learn from some great representatives from the law enforcement and criminal justice communities about what may be your future careers. Stay focused, pay attention to what is said and don’t be afraid to ask questions of the people that you meet during your time here.”
To learn more about the Summer Enrichment Program or about any of the other programs and services offered by the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, visit: www.scsdma.org.
The Chelsea Police Department (CPD) and City Manager Tom Ambrosino released crime statistics from 2015 this month and, while overall crime is down, Chief Brian Kyes said they remain concerned that violent crime numbers remained the same as in 2014.
While overall crime was down 8.3 percent from 2014 (1,479 to 1,356 incidents), the numbers of violent crimes remained basically unchanged from 2014 – going from 419 to 420 incidents. Violent crime for reporting purposes comprises murders, rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies.
There were no murders in Chelsea in 2015.
“While I am somewhat optimistic that Overall Crime is down just over 8 percent from 2014, both the City Manager, myself as the Police Chief and the police department as a whole remain extremely concerned that Violent Crime has remained consistent with the total numbers from 2014,” said Chief Kyes. “The [incidents] that contribute to these total numbers are predominantly Aggravated Assaults and Robberies, armed and unarmed. The vast majority of the Sexual Assaults…that took place in the city of Chelsea sadly occurred in a familial setting involving family members and/or known individuals.”
Kyes said it is a larger trend across the country right now to see an uptick in violent crime from what were historic lows. Kyes said one highpoint in the discussion is that there were no homicides in 2015, while there were 12 in 2010.
“I have been hearing from my counterparts around the State in all of the 35 Major Cities that they have been experiencing the same trend as it pertains to Violent Crime with either a slight increase or similar numbers from 2014,” he said. “As a result, this crime category will continue to be our major priority at the Chelsea Police Department for the foreseeable future and we will continue deploy all of our available resources while engaging the assistance of our local, state and federal partners to drive this number down over the course of calendar year 2016 and beyond. On a positive note Violent Crime has decreased 35 percent over the last three years since 2012 and there were no homicides to report in the City of Chelsea in 2015. We all remember in 2010 there was a record high of 12.”
The same story has, in fact, played out all over the region, and even in Boston.
The City of Boston reported an all-time low in homicides in 2015, but at the same time, violent crimes such as non-fatal shootings were on the rise.
The worst months for crime in Chelsea during 2015 were April, May and July.
In April, property crimes shot up to 110 incidents, the highest monthly level all year, while violent crime remained at an average level of 36 incidents. In May, property crime went down a bit, while violent crime surged to 49 incidents.
In July, both property crime (97 incidents) and violent crime (50 incidents) were both high.
For individual types of crimes, see below:
Murders went from 4 to 0.
Rapes went from 19 to 22.
Aggravated Assaults went from 226 to 214.
Robberies went from 170 to 184.
Burglaries went from 198 to 152.
Larcenies went from 741 to 663.
Motor vehicle theft stayed the same with 121 for both years.
The Street Robbery Task Force activities included 1,013 field interviews, 165 arrests, 69 warrant arrests, 34 weapons seized, 40 drug case evidence seized, 21 robberies cleared/arrest, and 423 motor vehicle stops.
Kyes said the statistics, which are part of an annual submission to the FBI crime statistics office, give him further reason to strengthen the newly-adopted walking patrol directive he unveiled last summer.
“Both the City Manager and myself are absolutely committed to a significant police presence by having our Officers spend quantifiable time each and every shift out of their cruisers walking the streets and neighborhoods where we have experienced the most serious crime problems,” he said. “We will also continue throughout 2016 our dedicated walking patrols in certain areas of the city. It is our intent to positively engage our residents with intensive outreach while eliciting their innovative ideas and suggestions to put in place to keep our community safe and secure.”
He also said the CPD will not celebrate the overall decrease in crime statistics as a milestone.
“The community can expect both ongoing covert and overt operations to address gang activity, drug distribution, prostitution, public intoxication and public drug use as well as all property crimes throughout 2016,” he concluded. “We will not take this slight decrease in overall crime as some type of victory or a sign that we have reached some significant milestone or benchmark but rather as a reminder that there is much more work to be done to increase the perception of safety in the hearts and minds of our residents and community stakeholders.”
Little Carlos Santizo tries on his brand new coat during a Holiday Party and gift giveaway sponsored by the FBI Boston Office, with many employees in attendance who will be relocating to the new Chelsea office next year. The event was in partnership with the Chelsea Police and the Chelsea Salvation Army, and was one of the first events held to connect with the community in advance of the major move from Boston to Chelsea in 2016.
If you were walking, driving or just sitting comfortably in your home Saturday morning, chances are you had a Henry Hill moment. For the better portion of the morning and early afternoon, members of the Massachusetts State Police, FBI and the U.S. Department of Energy were conducting training drills over the city making several low passes just above rooftops in a Bell Rotorcraft Survey helicopter measuring natural ground radiation levels. Several people were caught by surprise as the aircraft would appear out of nowhere over rooftops and tree lines. At one point the aircraft made an extremely close pass by the Chelsea Street Bridge about 150 feet off the ground. The training exercises were being conducted over several cities in the Metro Boston area.
As the developers of the One North of Boston on Heard Street put the finishing touches on their first phase of residential development last summer – some 230 apartments in a once-dilapidated corner of the city next to Rt. 1 – they sat around a table and contemplated what to do next.
With a second phase of 222 units planned, they decided to wait a bit and take the temperature of the situation in Chelsea before moving forward.
The readings on that temperature gauge proved to be hot, and the need to wait was soon unnecessary, according to those same developers.
Now, with their first phase completely leased up, Gate Residential and TransDel have broken ground on the second phase one year ahead of schedule and are preparing to deliver those 222 new units in April 2016.
“Why did we move so quick?” asked Kyle Warwick, a principal at Gate. “The FBI project broke ground, the Silver Line is coming and we had great success in our Phase 1. We really did say we would wait to see how those three things progressed and all three have come through. So, we went for it.”
City Planner John DePriest said they helped review plans for the new project and did everything they could to help expedite the process. He said the City is thrilled to see that project move forward so far ahead of schedule.
The second phase of One North is located just across Maple Street from Phase 1 and will be delivered in two portions – the first coming next April and the second next June. It will look similar to Phase 1, but will have more masonry work – with Warwick saying they will look related, but won’t be identical. He also said they would have complimentary amenities, with another pool planned and an indoor half-basketball court. The move to invest more in the project that was seen as a risk is something that he said banks on the outright success of Phase 1.
“We leased up Phase 1 two months after completing the project,” he said. “We did the project in two parts – April and June of last year. By August, we were 100 percent leased and we continue to be 100 percent leased. We sped up the process and took about a year off of Phase 2. We wanted to be on the heels of Phase 1…We lined up our equity and debt and ran to the start. Usually, it is a quiet period during the early process of construction…We like to come out quick and build momentum. We will be delivering into next year’s market. That comes in April 2016.”
Warwick said they would likely open a leasing office in January 2016 to begin the marketing for those properties
Furthermore, he said the project is a hot commodity for his company especially due to the Silver Line – which officially started work last week. He said once that is built out and there is a direct connection to South Station, Chelsea will have a unique accommodation on the public transit system.
“When that’s up and running, it means Chelsea’s got the only North-South connector in all the Commonwealth,” he said. “It really will be an extraordinary thing and one reason we’re so excited about this project…We’ll have 452 units; that’s a very big project. It’s fitting into the community. It’s connected to rail. We’re in walking distance of downtown and to the restaurants. There’s a lot of activity in Chelsea.”
Gate Residential is based in Boston and TransDel is a partnership of Mark Robinson and Mark White.
The Chelsea City Council got an update on the Clark Avenue School project Monday night at its Council meeting, and the costs to the City aren’t getting any smaller.
While the City does get a large portion of the costs funded through the state’s School Building Authority (MSBA), the portion the City has to pay has come in much higher than anyone expected.
Councillor Brian Hatleberg told the Council the local cost looks to be around $19 million or more – a good distance away from what was expected originally, which was something like $15 to $16 million.
The City does have a School Stabilization Fund, he said, but it is appearing more and more like the City will have to bond a large portion of the local cost.
Hatleberg told the Record preliminary numbers look like it could cost the City $1.3 million per year on a 20-year bonding.
“The challenge her is how we’re going to do that rather than if we’re going to do it,” he said. “To our community’s credit, the consensus to build it is there and the thought that we need to do right by our kids and give them a top-notch school. Now, we have to figure out how to pay for it.”
SOME COUNCILLORS NOT ON BOARD WITH CRIME DROP
A small block of councillors aren’t seeing the drop in crime that was reported late last month and said they don’t believe crime is down in reality over the last quarter.
Councillor Joe Perlatonda said he doesn’t believe the streets are safe and pointed to several high-profile events in his district and the neighboring district of Giovanni Recupero – who is also a bit skeptical.
Perlatonda and other councillors said that the Police contingent is at its highest in decades – with more than 100 officers – and they still don’t see enough visibility despite those numbers.
It has prompted some to begin to call for a discussion of how the shifts on the Police Department are structured.
“I and others on the Council would like to have a discussion about why we’re not using three shifts like we used to,” Perlatonda said. “The way I understand it is that we have five shifts now, which includes an overlay shift and an impact shift. Some people say it’s great, but I don’t see it working. Everywhere I go people keep telling me they don’t feel safe. I’m not just making all this up. People who have kids here can’t wait to get them out of here because they’re scared for them. Look what happened on Blossom Street.”
Said Recupero, “What I don’t understand is that if we have so many officers why we don’t have more visibility,” said Recupero. “If there’s 100 officers, and if we had three shifts, that should leave some 30 officers to patrol the streets and staff the station. We should be seeing police everywhere.”
Perlatonda said one of the major complaints he gets from residents is about the vagrants in Bellingham Square. He said they make people feel unsafe, they deal drugs and they generate tons of trash.
“I just don’t understand why we tolerate that,” he said. “Maybe we should put them all on a bus and send them up north to Peabody or Danvers or Newburyport, but I doubt they would tolerate them up there for a minute.”
SITE PREP UNDERWAY
Construction trailers and some heavy equipment have moved into the FBI building site on Everett Avenue this week.
The parking lot has also been closed off and fenced in too.
City Manager Jay Ash said it was only site prep work, but that a groundbreaking on the project is coming soon.
TAKING A LOOK AT OVERTIME
City Councillor Leo Robinson put in an order before the Council to get information on overtime spending in the Police and Fire Departments this fiscal year, which started on July 1.
Robinson said he wants to compare how much was spent last year versus this year.
Of particular concern is that he has heard the Fire Department has spent as much as 30 percent of its overtime budget since July 1 and the Police Department 20 percent of its budget.
“I just want to make sure all of it isn’t used up quickly and then we have to have a supplemental appropriation in the middle of the year,” he said.
High-ranking members of the Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) and Fire Union officials said this week after conducting a risk assessment of the new FBI building response requirements they are nowhere near ready to handle such a facility.
That comes, however, in direct contradiction to the opinion of City Manager Jay Ash, who doesn’t believe the new facility will require any extraordinary staff increases from the CFD.
“Right now, we’re nowhere near ready to handle that kind of impact,” said Deputy Chief John Quatieri. “There are a lot of concerns there for the department. We have a lot of restrictions in our responses there. We met with them and we couldn’t even see the floor plans due to the nature of the building. There’s also a lot of accountability things we have to learn and prepare for. For instance, we cannot even use our radios when we’re in there…Like it or not, their buildings are an absolute target hazard and there are a lot of things to be prepared for and we have a lot of work ahead of us if we’re going to be anywhere near ready.”
That was echoed by Fire Union President Brian Capistran, who said dangerous responses and staffing concern his membership the most when talking about the FBI building.
“The concerns we have are about staffing and how we will have an adequate response to that building,” he said. “We’re hand-in-hand with the command staff on this issue. We’re definitely not ready. We’re unable to respond in the ways that Boston responds right now to the existing FBI building. We only have 17 firefighters on a shift right now. Boston sends a response of 36 at a minimum.”
City Manager Jay Ash said he has heard the concerns, but does not believe the FBI facility would require any more or less of a response than existing office buildings in Chelsea – hinting that the concerns of the department might be related to a continued desire to get more staffing.
“We are adequately staffed to handle all needs in the city presently and as foreseen by approved future projects, including responding to a fire emergency at that building once it is built,” he said this week. “In fact, the Matrix fire study confirms just that. There are some in the Fire Department who want more personnel and equipment to be placed into service. However, our study does indicate that we are staffed to meet the services we need to provide. We do continue to consider all requests from all departments about expansion desires, but we do have a limited capacity to meet those expansion requests…There should be an emergency plan created for the building, just as there is for other buildings in the city, but our study indicates that our regular plan of responding to an emergency there is appropriate.”
He said the FBI building would not even be the tallest building in the city, and would really be mostly offices and office workers.
“The proposed federal office building will not be the tallest building in the city, will not be the biggest in terms of square footage, and is generally an office building with office type work being done in it,” he continued. “It is no different than many other federal office buildings around the state and country and it will have a security plan that will meet the needs of its workers and interface with our public safety respondents. If we were proposing to build something out of the ordinary, like a power plant, I think those concerns would be more valid. However, this project, while high profile, is very similar to many other buildings in Chelsea and exactly like numerous buildings around the country.”
Fire officials, however, (both union and administrative) point to an analysis completed earlier this summer by the CFD (July 14) after meeting with the FBI and going over a risk assessment on July 8.
One of the key concerns in the analysis is the fact that Chelsea Fire lacks the staffing that Boston currently devotes to the existing FBI building in downtown Boston.
For example, the July report cites that on a simple alarm call, Boston sends 10 companies with 36 firefighters to the scene. Chelsea Fire would only be able to send 6 companies of 17 firefighters.
If there is a call for smoke showing in the FBI high-rise in Boston, the Boston Fire Department sends 16 companies of 49 firefighters. Once again, Chelsea Fire would only be able to send 6 companies with 17 firefighters to such an emergency.
That, the report states, is particularly troubling for protecting the new FBI building and for protecting the safety of firefighters.
“This is a decisive tactical problem for the Chelsea Fire Department as there are not adequate resources to handle a 1st alarm response for a building of this type,” read the Department’s report. “According to the 2013 Matrix Report, the initial response of 50-51 personnel is required to effectively operate at a facility such as the FBI. The Boston Fire Department clearly recognizes this fact and has planned accordingly. The Chelsea Fire Department is not adequately prepared to effectively respond to a building of this type.”
Another major concern of the report is preparing for the worst, and in the case of an FBI headquarters, the worst is a terrorist attack such as occurred in 1995 at the Oklahoma City federal building. As a refresher, that tragedy killed 168 people, including many children at a daycare, and damaged more than 300 buildings in a 16-block radius.
Such an attack on the new Chelsea FBI building would affect nearly all of the western part of the City, and also parts of surrounding cities.
In the CFD analysis, there is a belief that they could not handle that kind of emergency – even with outside help.
“Understandably, the department will also need to prepare for worst-case scenarios such as the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995,” read the report. “This was a domestic terrorist bomb attack on a federal facility similar to the one proposed in Chelsea. A bomb was detonated in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The bombing claimed 168 lives and injured more than 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings.”
In the end of that section, the report concludes that Chelsea’s existing staffing and preparedness are not in any way ready to handle a facility like the new FBI building.
“Currently, the department does not have appropriate staffing to sufficiently administer the many levels of ICS necessary to manage an incident at the proposed FBI facility,” read the report. “Emergency response to the FBI facility will be tumultuous at best. The department does not presently meet the National Standard for a high-rise fire response.”
Capistran said bringing in the FBI facility without completely addressing fire, haz-mat and terrorism responses would be a mistake.
“People say that because of all the fires we have and the way we have been able to knock them down and really preserve a lot of personal property and have had no fatalities, that we’re doing a very good job,” he said. “That may be true, but we’re also just lucky. We’re gambling every day on every shift. We have gambled and gotten lucky. We think it will catch up to us if we don’t address these things.”