The Suffolk County Sheriff has had enough with the problems that often escalate right outside the House of Corrections in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.
"The number of times we saw people shooting up, or fighting, or defecating, was untenable," Sheriff Steven Tompkins said Monday in an exclusive interview with NBC10 Boston. "It was just out of control."
A corrections officer was attacked on his way to work in early August. Surveillance video of the attack shows the officer jumping out of his car and punching someone as a mob quickly attacks him, at least one person hitting the officer with a metal pipe.
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"Should he have not gotten out of the car? Probably," said Tompkins. "But it was an emotional situation, and he leapt up before he thought about it."
Police moved in, arresting more than a dozen people, calling the show of force "Operation Clean Sweep."
The officer is back to work, and Tompkins now works to prevent a similar attack on a stretch long known as "Methadone Mile."
In the days after the attack, the sheriff demanded and received a meeting with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Boston Police Commissioner William Gross and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins.
"Here is the rub: this can't be a flash in the pan. We can't all sit down and talk about, 'What we are going to do,' and we do it for a week, or a month, or a quarter, and then it is back to business as usual," the sheriff said. "I need to see some sustainability, in whatever action plan we put in place, that is going to last, frankly, forever."
Those who live and work near Methadone Mile agree.
"We have definitely seen the benefits of this intervention. "'Clean Sweep' is challenging because it is taking the problem from one end of the South End, and moving it to another, so it is not really a long term solution, it's the beginning of an intervention," said Alexandra Krotinger, part of the Worcester Square Neighborhood Association. "'Clean Sweep' only does so much, because we are not sweeping people towards enough services, and enough sustained services, to really provide a change in lifestyle for a lot of these folks."
The sheriff says he will keep pushing until a more permanent solution is in place.
"I'm not from the Show Me State, but I'll adopt it — I want to see this effectuated. I want to see everything we talked about get done," he said. "We can not arrest our way out of this situation. It took a long time to get here, so it going to take a long time to get out of this situation, but we don't roll up our sleeves and do this every day, every single day, then it is all for naught."