By Beth Germano


BOSTON (CBS) – It was a jarring scene Tuesday night, according to homeless advocates who say they took photos of wheelchairs being tossed and crushed in a city trash truck.

Some were taken by Dr. Dinah Applewhite, who works in the neighborhood often called Methadone Mile.

“I was distracted by somebody crying, ‘Those are my things … everything I own … that’s a wheelchair … What are you doing?'” she said.

Dr. Dinah Applewhite said wheelchairs were taken during a recent cleanup of Methadone Mile. (Photo credit: Dr. Dinah Applewhite)

Boston police have been cracking down in the area in the wake of Operation Clean Sweep triggered by an attack on a corrections officer last week.

But Aubri, who said she is a person who uses drugs, believes the photos send a message: “It exemplifies public disdain, vile and negative attitudes toward folks living in the area.”

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the photos may not look good but denies anyone’s property was taken. “There’s a story behind the wheelchairs – one was abandoned. We didn’t move anyone out of wheelchairs; that’s not our job, and we’re not doing it.”

Applewhite insisted police swooped into the area, and the cleanup was “a group of people sent on the street to remove trash without policies and procedures to make sure the most vulnerable people were protected.”

Boston police Commissioner William Gross said police are targeting people preying on the vulnerable, and that Tuesday night’s cleanup goes far beyond the photos.

“Trust me, the hospital is 300 yards away. We make sure anyone who needs a wheelchair gets it,” said Gross.

Mayor Walsh says the city is dealing with an epidemic with no easy answers.

“Creating access to treatment is a piece of it, trying to let people realize on the street their life is worth something. There’s no magic bullet. If it was a disease like cancer, we might know better how to treat it,” Walsh said.

Beth Germano

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