Boston cops: Beef up bail to close revolving door

Copyright 2006 Boston Herald Inc. 
Anthony Williams was a busy man last weekend. So were the Boston police officers who arrested him three times in two days.

Williams, 38, started his alleged weekend crime spree Friday night when he was arrested for drug possession on Mount Pleasant Avenue in Roxbury. A friend bailed him out, only to have him busted again early Saturday morning for trespassing on the same street, according to the Boston police journal log.

Again, Williams was bailed out and back on the streets. That is until around noontime yesterday when he and another man, Marc Ross, were busted in a stolen car - which they were driving down Mount Pleasant Avenue.

Williams is not accused of any violent crimes. But the cycle of multiple arrests in a short time span is not all that uncommon, even for suspects charged with shootings, attempted murder and other bloodshed in the city, police officials and prosecutors said in interviews with the Herald.

The issue of the justice system allowing repeat offenders back on the streets despite serious charges is not a new one in the city, but one that has reached a crescendo.

Last week, 18 defendants arrested on default warrants for jumping bail in a Boston police initiative dubbed Operation Red Zone were released within hours - back out on bail on a second charge after failing to show up in court in connection with the case that prompted the default warrant.

``In many instances, we are locking up the same people multiple times. We see the same impact players time and time again,'' said Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole. ``There are huge serious systemic challenges that the police cannot solve alone.''

Those challenges have prompted Mayor Thomas M. Menino to insist on changes to the law that would give judges more power to set tougher bail conditions - and give felons the maximum sentence for their third offense.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley announced the creation of a gun court that would deal exclusively with defendants charged with weapons crimes, decreasing the potential for offenders with several firearms arrests to be released on low bails.

Conley also has the complicated task of prosecuting alleged shooters in pending gun cases, only to have those defendants become victims while out on bail awaiting trial. BPD officials have said out of the 15 people blasted with bullets in Hyde Park last year, six were out on bail in connection with other crimes.

``In this city all too often today's perpetrator becomes tomorrow's victim, or vice versa,'' Conley said.

The issue came to the forefront last month when a 17-year-old Dorchester teen allegedly pointed a loaded weapon at officer Vaden Scantlebury after the off-duty cop interrupted a gun battle on Blue Hill Avenue as he drove home with his young daughter.

That teen, Jonathon Powell, was out on bail when the alleged incident occurred, despite charges he allegedly unloaded a weapon at a pregnant woman and her family; threatened a neighbor with a gun; and beat a man with a baseball bat in an apparent racial attack. Those were just three entries in a long criminal history, police sources said.

January 23, 2006

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