Keeping Boston Safe in the Midst of a Pandemic: Brandon Stone ’01 Heeds the Call
Brandon Stone ’01 can trace the roots of his career all the way back to The Hun School. “My interest in serving the community was brought on by my years of community service at Hun,” he explains. During his time in the Upper School, Mr. Stone volunteered with the Princeton Fire Department and the Princeton First Aid Rescue Squad. “It really was formative and guided me in my career.” He later worked with the Princeton Police Department as a dispatcher before returning to his home state of Massachusetts to attend the Boston Police Academy.
Brandon Stone has been a police officer with the Boston University Police Department for fifteen years, but you will not find him interacting with und. Instead, he spends his days (and nights) going where most Bostonians won’t—the South End, also known as Methadone Mile. Home to hospitals, homeless shelters, health clinics, and the city jail, it is also home to Boston’s largest homeless and drug-addicted population. Boston University’s Medical School is located here, and as the years have passed, Officer Stone has had a front-row seat to the nation’s exploding opioid crisis. “I’m part of a joint task force with the Boston police, state police, and the Boston health commission, that was created to address various problems associated with this population.”
Crime is common here, but Officer Stone and his partner walk the streets to get to know the neighborhood’s denizens on a personal basis. “We started by saying ‘good morning’ to everyone. We wanted to become more of a face rather than just a cop driving around in a cruiser.” The personal touch paid off, as they developed relationships with many of the regulars. “People would come up and tell us about their day. They trust you enough to give you information—maybe that somebody is selling something dangerous or that somebody has a weapon. It’s the ultimate sign of trust; we have a mutual respect.”
Of course, Officer Stone’s community model of policing has changed dramatically since the pandemic. He is no longer able to walk the streets, and while the citywide quarantine has been “great for traffic,” it has not slowed crime. “If I worked in a small town, it would probably be sleepy, but here in Boston the bad guys like coming out when they know everybody is home.” Property crime has flourished during the pandemic. “Most of the crimes are quality of life concerns, such as house burglaries and personal property theft.”
Since the criminals are still working, you will find Officer Stone layering on plastic gloves and a mask to visit another place most would not dare go—the homeless encampments along the Charles River. Without access to sanitary facilities, proper hygiene is nearly impossible for the homeless and indigent population and represents a growing public health concern. And while “going down to the homeless camps during COVID certainly isn’t ideal,” Officer Stone knows it is the only way he can effectively do his job—a job that he has been away from for the last fourteen days after a co-worker tested positive and he was forced to self-quarantine (despite testing negative for the virus).
He returned to duty on May 20th, and is looking forward to seeing the familiar faces of the people he has come to know. Despite witnessing devastating situations daily, he never lets his positivity, or his compassion, wane. “They’re not ‘a bunch of bums using drugs.’ They certainly didn’t start out this way. Nobody says, ‘I can’t wait to live at a bus stop or in a tent on the Charles River.’”