By SCOTT JACKSON
At a public forum Monday evening, Police Chief Paul Keenan said his department is there to assist the community and urged residents to contact police if they are in need of assistance or see something suspicious.
Scores of residents were present inside Tobin Towers on Clay Street for the meeting, which was held to discuss public safety after a woman in her 60s was kidnapped outside the Wollaston MBTA station earlier in November and then taken to a home where she was repeatedly raped. Representatives from various organizations, including Quincy Asian Resources Inc. and DOVE, were there to speak with residents after the meeting Monday, and interpretation services were provided in Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese.
City Councillor Nina Liang, who helped organize the meeting, said she was inspired by the number of residents who were present on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate the reason why we are gathered here but I am inspired that we are all coming together as a community to find ways to move forward together safely,” she said.
Ward 5 Councillor Charles Phelan Jr. said the city was taking the incident that took place at the T station seriously.
“I have a daughter and wife and we live just a couple blocks away, so it’s something that we really take seriously, everyone in the city,” he said.
Mayor Thomas Koch said public safety is the most important issue for local government and noted that during his tenure as mayor, and with the assistance of the City Council, the Quincy Police Department has increased in size from 144 patrol officers in 2008 to 185 patrol officers today.
“As chair of the School Committee, I frequently say there is nothing more important we do in government [than] educating our children, with one exception, and that is the safety of you and your person and of your property,” Koch said.
“We have an outstanding police department. They do a good job every day. That doesn’t mean things are not going to happen. We live in a troubled world and there are evil people out there, there are ignorant people out there, and there’s mental illness issues that people have out there.”
Quincy is the seventh most populous city in Massachusetts, Koch added, and is the safest of the ten largest cities in the state.
“Quincy is a safe city,” he said, noting that the Quincy Police Department and MBTA Transit Police were able to apprehend the suspect charged with the kidnapping and rape within 16 hours.
Keenan, the city’s police chief, called the kidnapping and rape of the woman on Nov. 12 one of the most horrific events he has experienced while serving with the department.
“I’ve been a police officer now for almost 40 years…and this is one of the most horrific events that I’ve ever experienced as a police officer. This hit right to the core of the city, right to the core of the police department,” Keenan said. “That morning, that woman was doing nothing wrong. She was going to her job to go to work. She cut through an open parking lot in broad daylight, 7 o’clock in the morning, and unfortunately she was abducted by a very sick individual.”
The suspect charged with the kidnapping and rape, Christian Lynch, a 26-year-old Quincy man, pleaded not guilty to those and other charges during his arraignment on Nov. 14 in Quincy District Court. He was ordered held without bail pending a Nov. 23 dangerousness hearing. Keenan said Lynch remains behind bars following that hearing.
Advocates with the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office are working to assist the victim, Keenan added.
“They have a crew of advocates to assist this poor woman in getting her life back together,” he said.
The police chief told those present for the community meeting that is important to call the police if they or anyone else requires assistance.
“We’d like to get the message across, crystal clear, we need you folks to call. If you see anything or if you hear anything or if you don’t feel comfortable or if you have an incident that you’re afraid of or you’re aware of, call us,” Keenan said.
“We don’t care at all about your immigration status or about your language difficulties. We have people in the police department that can interpret, we also have an interpreter line that can also interpret. We’re there for you. Make the phone call. You’re not bothering us. We’re not going to ask your immigration status. Whether you’re here legally, illegally or whatever, we’re just going to assist you. We’re here to help. We want to make sure we keep all of you safe, and we want to help you.”
It is also important, he added, for people to be aware of their surroundings.
“We need you to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “A lot of people, especially when they’re walking are on their cellphones or on headphones. If you could pay more attention to your surroundings, that would be helpful as well to keep you safe.”
Keenan said that patrols have been added in the area of Wollaston Center.
“We have increased patrols in this area. I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but even prior to this incident, we had extra officers working, so we put them down in the Wollaston Center area,” he said. “So, we’ve done that…and that will continue.”
The department also plans to hold self-defense courses for the city’s Asian population and for its elderly population, Keenan said.
“We’re going to get those up and running,” he said. “We had to stop for a little bit when we had COVID going on. Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue those in person, but it seems like COVID is hopefully on the decrease and we feel comfortable enough to get you folks out and get you into those training seminars.”
The chief said that QARI has offered to let the department use its facility at 550 Hancock St. to hold those seminars, and the department is looking at other venues as well. Information on those sessions will be posted online and within Quincy Housing Authority properties, such as Tobin Towers.
During Monday’s meeting, two residents asked about the Transit Police presence at the Wollaston station. One person said she had visited the station multiple times over the past week and only saw a Transit Police officer there on one occasion. Marsha Lehane, who rides the T every day, said an officer should be present at all times the Red Line is running.
“You need to find a way to get a body, a man or a woman, in uniform dressed as a policeman standing there…every time that train is running from morning ‘til they shut down,” Lehane said. “There has got to be something visual and standing there in uniform to know that nobody is going to get by them.”
A representative from the Transit Police was not at the meeting held on Monday evening but was present for a forum held earlier in the day elsewhere in Wollaston. At that meeting, Keenan said his counterpart with the Transit Police explained that officers are deployed to stations based on call volume, and Wollaston is the safest of the four stations in Quincy and among the safest in the entire system.
“He kind of explained it today at the earlier meeting, they just don’t have the bodies to be able to cover each station,” Keenan stated. “They do have officers at the Quincy Center station, which is an awful lot busier call-volume wise, but they do go up and down the line.”
Keenan added that he would speak with Transit Police about the matter.
Another resident asked if Lynch would be charged with a hate crime as both the woman he is charged with kidnapping and another woman he is charged with trying to abduct earlier that same morning are both Asian. Keenan said authorities are continuing to investigate the case.