Drug Evictions Rare at Bromley! 

Drug Evictions Rare at Bromley! 
Posted by FoM on December 28, 1998 at 10:47:59 PT

Unlike other public housing developments in Boston, the tenant managers at Bromley-Heath have rarely sought evictions - even for drug offenders, court records show. 
The records appear to buttress a claim by Boston Housing Authority officials that Bromley-Heath's tenant managers were lax in enforcing state and federal laws aimed at eliminating drugs from public housing. The BHA seized control of the 1,500-unit development on Oct. 30 during a major federal drug sweep, citing failure to enforce those laws. Bromley-Heath managers acknowledge they often have chosen treatment and second chances for drug violators over eviction, leeway they say is clearly allowed in the federal ''one-strike'' law. But as the Bromley-Heath managers negotiate with the BHA for the return of the development to their control, their previous approach is being seen as ineffective. ''They just weren't enforcing one-strike at Bromley,'' said BHA chief of staff Hilary Jones. ''Why should law-abiding people living in public housing have to put up with bad actors because some tenant group thinks the law is too harsh?''Even before the one-strike law was enacted in 1996, Jones said, BHA leases contained language stating that breaking the law could result in eviction. With 1,122 apartments, the Bunker Hill development in Charlestown is closest in size to Bromley-Heath, and it had 302 eviction suits for all causes, including drug violations, filed in 1997 and 1998. In contrast, Bromley-Heath sought a total of 27 evictions for those years, according to court records. Of the 27 cases at Bromley-Heath, only four were related to drugs, compared with 77 at Bunker Hill, according to the BHA and court records. Since 1996, when President Clinton announced a crackdown on drugs and violent crime in public housing developments, eviction cases have mushroomed nationwide, according to federal records. In keeping with the national trend, the BHA increased eviction cases from 1994 to 1998 from 729 to 952 families at its 49 developments. Bromley-Heath evictions peaked in 1995 with 24 cases for nonpayment and nuisance crimes, records show. Only a handful of evictions have been sought against drug offenders over the past four years, according to court records. Other large Boston developments had their share of drug-related evictions: Old Colony had 46 in 1997 and 1998 alone; Mary Ellen McCormack had 66, and Mission Main had 42 during the same period. Bromley-Heath, which pioneered tenant mangement nationwide in 1975, has defended its approach. ''The numbers don't tell the whole story,'' said Steve Weil, a lawyer whose firm has handled the development's evictions for several years. Bromley-Heath has ''clearly been willing to work with people to see if drug treatment or job training would help, and there are a lot of success stories,'' said David Worrell, a Bromley-Heath manager, through a spokesman. Weil recalled a family that was evicted for a relative's prescription-drug peddling and another that was allowed to stay in the development on a housing court judge's order, overruling Bromley-Heath's eviction effort. But as a rule, Bromley-Heath officials often chose to skirt the thrust of the one-strike rule by dropping the name of an offending tenant from the lease after an arrest. Then, rather than evict the whole family, Weil said they often asked the courts to order the offending tenant to stay off the property for up to a year. ''These are tough judgment calls,'' Weil said. ''A lot of times it will make sense to take somebody off the lease and [make them] leave the development.''Bromley-Heath police chief Zygmunt Choroszy Jr. said the development's eight-member force made countless arrests for drugs and other felony charges, but that tenant managers chose not to pass the cases on for eviction. At a recent federal detention hearing, Assistant US Attorney Thomas Frongillo pointed to the case of Shaka Buford as one that did not justify the leniency Bromley-Heath leaders bestowed. As an 18-year-old, Buford was arrested three times on felony charges in 1995, one of them on charges of possessing ''crack'' cocaine. The arrests prompted Bromley-Heath's lawyers to seek a court order to prohibit him from entering the development, including his mother's apartment on Parker Street. His ''continued presence poses a serious threat to the health and/or safety of the tenant households,'' Bromley-Heath lawyers contended in court papers. In June 1996, Buford was arrested for chasing a man through the Jackson Square T stop, allegedly armed with three kitchen knives. This time, Bromley-Heath lawyers started out with a tough approach, seeking to evict Buford's entire family from the development. Then they relented, substituting a ''last-chance'' agreement with Buford. He only had to sign a court order in which he promised not to break the law on Bromley-Heath grounds. The order did not stop Buford from hanging around the development, it just kept his name off his mother's lease. That promise meant little according to a federal drug trafficking indictment, which prompted Drug Enforcement Administration agents to arrest Buford at 4 a.m. in his mother's apartment on Oct. 30. Buford is behind bars indefinitely and no moves have been made to evict his family. The ''one-strike'' policy at the center of the debate over Bromley-Heath's conduct is not exercised in every BHA case, either. If the eviction approach were automatic, more of the Mission Main tenants arrested in a huge sweep of 150 arrests in 1996 would have been evicted. But BHA records show only 19 drug-related evictions were sought at Mission Main in 1997. Still, Weil said that Bromley-Heath has been judged too harshly. ''Nobody's saying Bromley-Heath's judgment calls were perfect,'' Weil said. ''How many chances do you give people? That's a different question.''
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Comment #1 posted by JCDM8 on March 01, 2000 at 17:16:25 PT:
One Strike And You're Out
One Strike And Yo're Out is a ridiculous policy. It was authored pre Monica Lewinsky
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