Jamaica Plain

A conversation with a Jamaica Plain police officer
By Diana Schoberg


Late 1980s- Boston Police refer to Hyde Square as “the cocaine capital of Boston.”

1985- MBTA Green “E-Arborway” Line service discontinued.

1987- New MBTA Orange Line begins running along Southwest Corridor.

1989- Hyde Square community comes together to form the Hyde Square Task Force, later incorporated as a non-profit in 1991. Its mission: to create a safe, clean, friendly and youth-focused neighborhood.

1996- Boston Police District E-13 (Jamaica Plain and Roxbury) Community Policing Unit re-opens.

1997- Hyde/Jackson squares designated by the city of Boston as a Main Street district. A headline in The Boston Globe reads, “Funky, culturally and economically diverse…welcome to Jamaica Plain.”

1999- Boston Redevelopment Authority begins planning in Jackson Square.

2000- The US Small Business Administration names Tony Barros, head of the Hyde/Jackson Business Association, National Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year.

2001- According to the 2000 census, Boston is for the first time a “minority-majority” city.

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation
Hyde Square Task Force
Boston Police District E-13

Danilo Ramirez has seen Hyde Square come a long way in his 31 years as a Boston Police officer pounding the streets of Jamaica Plain.

As he sits at the back table at one of his favorite restaurants in the neighborhood, El Oriental de Cuba, the 64-year-old patrolman tells stories of the changes he’s witnessed.

He remembers the 1970s, when the problems were stolen cars, vandalism and people hanging out after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights outside the nightclub where the Bella Luna restaurant stands today.

He remembers when drugs started getting heavy in the 1980s. Every corner from Hyde Square down to Jackson Square was owned by an individual, Ramirez explains. One guy sold cocaine for $35 a bag. Another sold it for $40 a bag – his was better stuff. And in Mozart Park, they’d sell the “B-bag.” Baking soda.

“The residents were afraid to come out at night because the drugs were so intense,” he says. “It was wild – real, real wild.”

Ramirez has seen a lot in 31 years.

He immigrated to the United States in 1961 from Cuba. He wears a ring with a Cuban flag proudly on his left hand and points out on the wall next to him a picture of the Cuban national bird.

“If you put him in a cage he will die,” he says, and snaps his fingers. “He was born to be free.”

He moved to Boston in 1964 where he became a police officer in the early 1970s. When he first came on the job he was one of very few Hispanic police officers, he says.

Ramirez and the others who he occasionally waves over to join the conversation agree the community has changed for the better.

“In the last 30 years, Jamaica Plain has improved 100 percent,” Ramirez says.

He credits the upswing in the community to the hard work of local residents and some aggressive patrolling by the Boston Police.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s the Boston Police worked closely with U.S. Immigration officials to deport illegal aliens involved in the drug trade.

Ramirez says “all the glory” should go to the residents in the community, who actively participate in crime watches and work hard at quality of life issues such as neighborhood beautification and property upkeep. He sings praises of a few “very unselfish persons” in the community such as Michael Reiskind, a co-chair on the Boston Police District E-13 (Jamaica Plain) Quality of Life Action Committee.

The neighborhood’s diverse residents live together without problems, Ramirez says. People from Somalia, China, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rica, and Haiti call the neighborhood home.

“There is not a single tone of racism,” he says. “People are very friendly.”

Businesses such as El Oriental de Cuba have flourished. The restaurant, which opened in 1992, doubled in size a few years ago to meet the demand. Ramirez points out the different floor tiles marking the addition.

The biggest problems in the community today are still drugs and robberies – car thefts and bag snatchings, Ramirez says. “I owe that to the lack of application of law by the judicial system,” he says. “I arrested a guy three different times in one day selling drugs.”

While the community may be prospering, at the end of the conversation Ramirez still insists on driving this visitor the few blocks to the T-station instead of letting her walk alone down Centre Street, even though at 6 p.m. it is still daylight.

“Too many bag snatchers,” he says.


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Boston Police
District E-13

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