Quite a few business and organization directors had harsh words for the Brattleboro Selectboard regarding downtown crimes, especially at the Transportation Center. Almost all mentioned break-ins or thefts, and quite a few reminded the board that the Transportation Center is town-owned and municipally- controlled. In other words – it’s your problem.
After many hours, the board voted to get price quotes on a new camera system for the Transportation Center, and possible consider some other steps, maybe, after we do a timeline and budget season is coming up, y’know. Can’t promise anything, but we feel your pain.
(Feedback loop and sound issues delay things again…) (Liz joins by remote)
Chair Ian Goodnow – I just have two quick remarks, first my usual announcement about election day… (he reviews election day again). If you haven’t mailed your ballot by yesterday, drop it in the drop box, give to Town Clerk, or bring to polls on Nov. 8 from 7-7 at American Legion. Second, Charter Review Commission – we’re looking for applicants. It’s pretty exciting. An excellent way to be a part of history. Letters of interest can come in until November 14.
Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland – no comments.
No board comments.
Nancy Braus. There are downtown merchants here tonight. There is a huge crime wave. Lots of break ins. 4 times this year for my store. Every merchant can give similar stories. Moving the police station to Putney Rd was a bad mistake. It has escalated since the police moved. The entire downstairs of the parking garage is empty and has plenty of space for a police station. Move it back asap. People tell me they see people with guns or drugs in the parking garage. One more suggestion. It’s vital that we open a drug court in Brattleboro. The last robbery was the groundworks donation jar. It’s $3. We’re were drugs come in and we need a drug court. It’s a judge to tell people with drug addiction issues who can choose rehab or prison. We’ll never dig out of these problems downtown. Why does Rutland have one and we don’t?
Ian – agenda item D is also an opportunity to speak on these things. I encourage people to speak on this during that item.
Nancy – most merchants have to get up early to open so that’s a bad idea.
Ian – fair point.
Salon Jaquie – also here because of the parking garage. Police have been as helpful as possible. We have a thriving business with a large clientele. Housing illicit behavior is illegal. It’s real and every hour throughout the day. I checked my car repeated to see if it was locked, and someone broke in. That’s a violation. That’s me. And my employees. And no lights on. We have a huge problem. In St Albans – they have a new garage – it’s for parking. We pay and park our car. Here, I get asked for money or whatever. Then my employees, then forget about elderly and vulnerable who won’t go near it. We have people from out of town – from keene. The parking garage is a problem. We don’t have enough police. Why is there security at a parking garage in Boston. I’m carrying mace and thinking of carrying a baseball bat. We’ve been in business 17 years. The garage is a public building. There is no restitution. St Albans took electric outlets out of usage. They drive through every half hour and make people leave. Help homeless find shelter. I was there at 1pm last week and I counted 20 people on one level selling drugs and sex trafficking. Makes me scared. Better get a handle on it. Businesses will move if clients can’t come. Take away the electric outlets. You know who’s running it, why can someone be a pimp?
Ian – the transportation center is item D and we can speak then to that. If there is other public comment. One thing I learned is we can move this up, if the board agrees. One presenter would get pushed. Move through other items quickly?
Patrick – or listen now and talk cameras then.
Ian – you can speak now, and we’ll talk about cameras.
Dick Degray – this should be at the top of the agenda – when you spoke 2 weeks ago I thought this would be further up on the agenda. The are talking parking garage, but this isn’t just a camera issue. Even the police chief says we need more than cameras, but you should move that up.
Jessica Gelter – how much can we respond?
Ian – not much. Let’s move the agenda item up to … new business B.
Jessica Cole(?) – with VT Country Deli – we’re seeing the same issue. Been broken into multiple times. Addicts come in and make my staff uncomfortable.
Daniel Quipp – we serve all of town. It’s not a just-downtown.
Jessica – they steal our tip jars and humane society jars.
Bruce Clawson – director with BCS. The housing crisis. We group criminals in certain places and pay $6k a month for them. We offer emergency housing and free RV’s – you need 500 units, but that takes years. Crime is based on grouping all these people doing the drugs. Construction projects are short sighted. The RV is cool and ready move in to. Saves the state the $6k a month. We ask the board to recognize housing as an emergency. You said it. It’s like being in jail in a public home. I believe in cameras, too. Thanks anyway.
Dick Degray – a couple of questions. An update on the Town Manager search.
Ian – there is an update coming very soon. Soon. I can’t give you an exact time, but soon.
Dick – Patrick – the red bus on Elliot St – it is still there and inhabited there again. What’s the real story?
Patrick – we cleaned up Elm St. Eliminating the vehicle is more difficult than anyone would like. We have a team of people working on getting that truck removed, tonight or tomorrow. Working actively.
Alli Padaigas – owner of The Void – it’s not just the parking garage. There is drug dealing on the corners of the street. There are open containers. We’ve been broken into and police response is terrible. We fend for ourselves and we feel defenseless and don’t feel welcome here. Customers aren’t comfortable coming here anymore.
Windham Flowers – Sally Winchester – next to the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve been broken into 7 times in the last 5 weeks. We’ve spent thousand for alarms. They smashed a window and we lost plants due to cold. There is glass in the plants. Everyone needs to know what’s happening on Main St. I’ve been there 17 years and not aware of any other break-ins. As a merchant, I feel really vulnerable. It takes 27 minutes for the cops to get there if the alarm goes off. It’s open season on main Street.
Kurt Daims – can you here me? (breaking up like a robot)(turns camera off)
Ian – we’ll move on… I don’t see anyone else…
Connie Burton – I own Burton Car Wash – we haven’t had any adverse events. We do see drug dealing near the vacuums. Not a major problem, but as a rep of the Chamber of Commerce, I want to confirm what Sally has been talking about. The Chamber hasn’t been broken into but we may put in cameras. Chief Hardy came to a board meeting and has great ideas, if implemented. There needs to be a culture change in what is admissible on our streets. Open hearted helpfulness brings more and more to town. We discussed making people more aware of it and talking about it, more ideas will come from it. We can’t just depend upon the police department. Too widespread a problem. They are doing what they can, but the community needs to come together and let the police know we support them. The more who get involved the more effective we can be. If you come to Brattleboro you won’t be able to do these things.
Kurt – everyone wants to talk about crime. I want to thank the people in town working on new policies for emergency housing in RVs – we want to show our thanks, so we don’t have to centralize our care for people without housing. Because that’s part of the problem – people packed together who have problems. It’s like old times. They deserve care, but better if it were decentralized, in RVs, on lots scattered around town. We got it going and thank you.
Declaration of Inclusion – Possible Modification
Patrick – there have been some word changes, including adding sexual orientation… (Kurt – I didn’t mention BCS!)… so add those terms and adopt the consent agenda.
Brattleboro Code of Ordinances Chapter 4, Proposed Changes – Second Reading and Possible Adoption
Sue Fillion – So I’m here to ask for a second reading and adoption of the code of ordinances Chapter 4 – Bicycles. The changes are to bring these up to date and in line with state regulations. Alice Charkes did most of the work to research what needed upsetting. No need to register bikes. Also, removes language about riding on handlebars or in tandem, or on a crossbar. Updates how hand signals are used, and requirements for the distance that front and rear lamps need to be visible. It’s been reviewed and supported.
Ian – we had this on the agenda last meeting but there was a potential error so we waited until this week.
Tim Wessel – we talked it out the last time.
Liz McLoughlin – thanks to Alice, and I fully support this.
Daniel Quipp – the police had a supply of lights and reflective material?
Patrick – No answer for you at this time.
Daniel – so, I suggested, have that supply of materials in vehicles and given out to bike riders who need them.
FEMA Grant for 250 Birge Street Floodplain Restoration – Accept and Appropriate $835k Grant
Sue – I ask you accept this grant for the floodplain restoration. This is a project we’ve worked on with the VT River Conservancy. We’re the grant applicant and they are the property owner. VT Emergency management helped. This is an important floodplain restoration project. Significant flood storage capacity, and the only place downtown that can do it. Lot of federal and state money, and the town has been supportive. Land will be turned over to the town when work is done. The grant amount is $838,840.56… the project is over a million dollars. There is a %25 local match, and VT Emergency Management is taking that on entirely, so no cost to the town for this other than managing the grant, and we can charge for that time. Great opportunity for the town. Work expected to begin summer 2023. A site overview is available. It’s a plan for passive recreation – waling trails, an accessible trail, a parking area, fishing spots.
Ian – great work and we want to show this off.
Sue – it’s on the Whetstone Brook, accessed by Birge Street. A parking area, different pathways. There will be several cuts. Further west will be lower. Water and sewer will be protected. There are some archeological artifacts found on site – indigenous artifacts and early industrialization. There’s a plan to document it all. There will be historical signage added to the site.
Tim – adds green space downtown.
Liz – I remember when we visited this and great to see Sue has tracked every impediment that has come up. It takes many years and you have to be steadfast to see it to fruition. Happy to see this.
Ian – one question we got, unable to attend – the project has one access point? Is there any way we can advocate for additional access points – from Williams, Estey, etc. We’ll forward it to you.
Sue – it is a good question and we’ve run into it. Chestnut St and Estey – it is really steep and cost prohibitive. We did talk about a pedestrian bridge, but pushback from the environmental folks at the state level. We’re lucky to get what we got, more than just plantings. We can talk about it again, but it wasn’t something they were interested in entertaining.
Brattleboro Transportation Center and Other Downtown Camera Options – Discussion
Ian – we modified the agenda for this. Let’s hear from Patrick about cameras and discuss that, then expand the conversation, then end with solid proposed ideas for the transportation center including cameras.
Patrick – in my memo, I apologize for the lack of detail. I’ve been distracted by the budget prep. Still, you can provide direction. What I can tell you is the old camera system is 20 years old. That’s millenniums of time in security cameras. Not a solid system, and it’s 20 years old and gets vandalized. To put it .. it is time to quit repairing it and to replace it. It is not used by parking enforcement – the Brattleboro police use it. It can be useful and used to be valued. Today, it is too poor quality. Not useful. They support replacing the system. I spent time with Steve Horton. We toured the facility. About $70k for a new system. more bulletproof. Less undermined. If you are interested in replacing, we can get quotes with options to consider. It might be more or less than $70k. It needs to be replaced, so let’s find out what it will take. One more detail – the board can do this without waiting because the parking structure is parking fund issue. You made the parking fund whole this year due to pandemic losses. It has more than enough to replace the system and we could start right away. The second element – we toured around town and talked with police department to talk about other locations. Police agreed that if we got downtown cameras at the intersections it would be the best – and each of those would cost about $25k each. More complicated in the public space. If the board wants to see those locations, we can proceed with that. It wouldn’t be parking fund. You could add it to the budget.
Ian – I asked that Lt. Evans be available to answer questions.
Liz – I would like some overall commentary from Evans but my impression is I’d like to see that the cameras be part of a set of recommendations to provide safety and security at the Transportation Center. We’ve done this task in solution, and would like to see a more comprehensive review. I want more than what is being presented tonight. What are the ways to combat crime at the Transportation Center. I’m in favor and want more, with an expert review.
Lt Evans – as far as cameras go, it is two parts. Replace the parking garage cameras is essential. We did use them in the past, but not so much now. Officers in the garage at an office to see the cameras would be good – haven’t done that lately due to cameras and staffing. A better system would be really great and we could view things from anywhere. Other dispatch facilities have access to cameras and deploy officers as needed.
Liz – other elements beyond cameras?
Evans – I’d look at a more holistic view and not just policing. That’s part of it. Things that make it more comfortable to be there, and uncomfy for people who should be there. Really strong upkeep on the facility. Put more money into keeping it bright and clear, with town employees there more with more of a presence.
Jessica Gelter – Cameras – current system, is tape based. We need to take care of that. Cameras don’t deter so much but help discover who is committing crimes. Increased maintenance of the space, and lighting need to be on the list. waiting the interior to be brighter and cleaner looking. Those things I want to bring up. cameras are important but need to be part of a bigger picture. We need to focus on the facility space we are to take care of. A good first step.
Tim – I’m in favor of upgrading 20 year old cameras. Could there be staff support for time for live viewing, or would that be hit or miss? Use for prevention?
Evans – someone dedicated to watch it? The way we can use it now – the opportunity for our personnel to view the video. No one needs to be paid to watch the cameras, but for them to be seen in cruisers and at the station gives us that ability. We can watch from cruisers… that would be perfect.
Tim – as for upping the police walkthroughs in that building? Any room for increasing foot presence?
Evans – I don’t want to commit. It’s something we’re looking at. It is difficult. It is a staffing thing. It creates difficulties for us town-wide. But we are looking at it.
Patrick – that was an excellent answer to a difficult question. There is some room for hope. Staff numbers are going up – two new doing patrols and one in the academy. We are hiring.
Liz – The first thing on my police ride along, we went to the transportation center. You don’t need a foot patrol. The police car serves as the police officer’s office. It can be patrolled in the police vehicle. A car is a valuable asset.
Daniel – the cameras – it isn’t functioning and needs to be taken care of. The purpose of the camera – evidence gathering? can viewing them remotely be admissible in court? After the fact?
Evans – not a lawyer. We collected a lot of video with property crimes and trespassing. All allowed in court. Many cases in parking garage – watched cameras then made arrests, it is legit. Same if we were in cars. Can be in the cruiser. As far as watching for surveillance, we haven’t done that in th past and don’t have a lot of time for it.
Daniel – so it would be a complaint in the area. Patrick – we invested in improving the lighting… how much did we spend?
Patrick – about 4 years ago. Brandie was chair. About $35 or 40k. I can confirm.
Daniel – I recall this conversation years ago. Themes ebb and flow. We’re in a tough time right now. A lot of people really struggling in this town right now. I hope we take appropriate action for the scale of the challenge.
Ian – it is a municipal building and what’s happening isn’t acceptable. I support cameras, and we don’t have all the answers. We hope to provide some solutions to change the culture.. cameras, cleaning, lighting, staffing, and filling vacancies. In the FY24 budget, we need additional maintenance and cleaning there full time. If we put the respect into the space maybe others will respect it, too.
Thomas in Marlboro – I spend time commuting on the bus. You want to view all issues through an equity lens. You heard from business owners, and I’ll be contrary. The ACLU has 4 problems with cameras – not proven to be effective. It can displace crime. Limited controls, subject to abuse. Can creep to more advanced digital recognition. And, a negative effect on public life. The conversations have focused on homelessness and addictions. While respondents are afraid of being asked for money in Community Safety study. This isn’t about the parking garage. Cameras are used against people with substance problems, or are without homes. This is about stigmatization. Asking for money is not unsafe. property and violent crime is different than being asked for money. It’s a loaded issue. Public space is an issue in town. I’ll go sit outside the Transportation Center and wait for my ride home tonight. Where are public bathrooms in town? They are being considered. Friends of mine who can’t afford methadone sleep in the garage. Basic needs being unmet address the problem. Surveillance doesn’t meet basic needs. It pushes people further out. It can be fatal. People didn’t want more policing. Cameras are better than a substation, but not supported by the community safety review. We need beds in shelters, bathrooms, cooling stations. Provide those things and the press will be taken off the transportation centers. Act in line with the community safety review recommendations.
Daniel – thanks, and that takes bravery. It is complex and there is plenty that you said that I agree with. The town is doing some of that work. These conversations come from a place of frustration, so if we can be kind we can be a more productive space.
Ivan – I have nothing to add to what Thomas said – it was brilliant. I wish I could have memorized it and repeated it back. He’s completely correct.
Michelle Simpson – Boys and Girls Club – couldn’t agree more about cameras being a terrible investment. My solution is law enforcement. You are lucky to live in Marlboro…
Ian – everyone – when you speak, speak to us….
Michelle – I had a conversation with new eduction director of the BHA. So many families want to access to club, but need transportation home. Their families don’t want them walking past the transportation center. It is barring access to the Boys and Girls Club, open to all. It’s a problem. We were here last year and 4 times since, and this is finally on the agenda – does the garage make any money? I don’t see how cameras will do anything if no one is there to enforce the law. There are drugs, weapons, prostitution… it has to be addressed. The only people qualified are police. There are resource issues. How about some sign on bonuses to attract more police. maybe they increase the times they are there. If our police can’t do it, a private security firm. There have to be ways to make that facility safe. Renee got emails and calls since she spoke at the last meeting. It’s out of control and we do really do need action. It is affecting Elliot and Flat St, it is a hub of negativity. It is your building. Ongoing surveillance – we’re doing it. We call dispatch all the time. Police get there too late. A police presence will push the criminal activity away from your building. And if you aren’t making money, maybe no one wants to park there. We just went though a safety assessment. Tried to park there but could not. Loved the club and what we were doing, then looked at the vehicles at the Transportation Center. Said we shouldn’t park there, staff should never go alone, children should never go. She found it appalling, and no other town allows it near their BnG clubs. You need to address the criminal activity, then take the next step. It’s within your scope. Mental health is not your charge. take action beyond the cameras. Support the police to have a presence there. Our staff have been solicited. We help working parents, and that building is blocking us doing our work. Don’t spend $75k on cameras. Put it into law enforcement. We all need to follow the same laws. Children and youth are subjected to drug use and lawlessness in your building. You wouldn’t stand for it at the Municipal Center. You are allowing us to be victimized.
Daniel – law enforcement – how many people on staff to handle a call?
Evans – ballpark 2-3.
Daniel – I understand the desire to have officers posted there. calls come from all over town. I’m not a huge fan of surveillance but we have a broken camera system that needs replacing. It could help crimes get prosecuted. They won’t prevent much crime. We could pay some starting bonuses, maybe. It doesn’t always work out. I’m grateful for the work our police department does in this town. If you read the department report, I wouldn’t want to respond to those calls. Michelle – improved cameras won’t solve problems but it is something we can do and it is connected. It ain’t perfect but a start.
Kate Barry – local business owner, real estate agent, boys and girls club board member. It is in a drug free zone and those laws apply. Why isn’t there more of a feeling of pressure or direct, swift immediate changes to address this. We won’t solve the housing crisis, or bigger issues, but the town can use its resources to uphold laws that specifically affect children in this town. The folks who need the resources most are being barred from this resource. It needs to be elevated.
Jess – Lt. Evans perspective with being more effective in that location? What would that do to activity?
Evans – depends on the crime/ There is a question in today’s world. If we make minor arrests, those are likely a citation and someone doesn’t get taken into custody. They are back out waiting of a court date. If it is not a felony, they won’t go to jail. You can talk about the effectiveness of making those arrests. PreCOVID we did it regularly. A strong presence, especially in the spring, to deter people. There has been a push to have us move away from doing those things in the community. Looking at other avenues… underlying causes and not just what occurred. Not all of this is police work. We’re a piece of it and the town can decide how much of a piece we are. We started Project CARE to help direct people to services. We continue this. Someone mentioned St Albans… we do that here and have officers trained to help people get resources. It has marginal effectiveness. It gives us a rapport with people which can be helpful, but is is broader now that in the 80’s.
Dick Degray – a lot of people here that are pretty frustrated. It is an intimidating room, on TV… you are nervous. When people come to talk, take stock of what they are saying. It takes courage to ask you for help. Businesses in town are being used as ATM machines. People have been broken into many times. We’re talking about the Transportation Center – the camera system needs to be replaced. Even if you take an officer and put them in the parking garage – it is 6 decks. It impacts spaces around that transportation center. Burlington gave $450k for an upgrade of cameras. It needs to be a quality system if we buy one. We need more cameras than just the intersections. You have ARPA money that could be used for additional cameras throughout the town. You have funding for more officers than you have on staff. You have funds available. I suggested to the Chief to hire the sheriff’s dept to patrol the transportation center. Why not use them? I suggested to Ian that grant money be used for businesses to put in cameras. Rooms and Sales taxes brings in a lot from the DID district. I appreciate every full storefront. You’ll have a negative impact on the rooms and meals tax. I came in June to ask about cameras. Here it is November. In June, Patrick mentioned the substation and coming up with another plan. What else can we do? I’ll chair a committee to look into this. I thought we kicked the can down the road. Now you have the budget ahead.. the town chugs along and nothing stops. Pay for the cameras in the transportation center, put additional cameras around town. Six total.
Ian – a break until 8:23…
More downtown Brattleboro safety discussion
Daniel – maybe we should move some things on the agenda to the next meeting…
Patrick – Health insurance and heating oil are quick..
Daniel – we aren’t reconvening if the Chair is yapping at the back of the room. Hey Ian! Tim, suggest to Ian we reconvene the meeting.
Ian – a little over… ok.
Lt. Evans – there have been mentions of times when there isn’t a police presence in town – we have officers working 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Eli – I am a business owner. I was surprised to hear Liz looking for holistic solutions connected to the cameras and Ian said he wanted answers. Those two comments are connected to the work of the community safety review. A committee worked for a full year. We have recommendations listed right here. I have it open. Cameras aren’t going to work or prevent crime. You can’t ticket your way through this. Enforcement doesn’t stop it. What do we do? You could disappear all of them to jail in Missouri. The CSR recommendation were that we help them – public bathrooms, injections sites. Do what you are doing somewhere else that is safer and reduce the harm? These are people in our town and community that we have to help.
Jessica – yes, the CSR had some exciting ideas around prevention and harm reduction. One goal is that the community is empowered to create non-police solutions. We should be talking about it after cameras.
Daniel – a lot of work has been done around the concept of safety. We hear and hold multiple viewpoints on the board. Lots of ways to make excuses – pandemic, town manager changes, etc. We came up with our goals for the year. One was a plan and process for the Community safety Fund and coming up with ARPA funding. People are frustrated. Hard to balance more policing with less policing.
Tim – I go back a way and we dealt with lighting in the transportation center. There is a difference of opinion on what to do with people… I don’t think we can police someone with a sign. As long as it isn’t aggressive. But here, is a town owned space with blatant criminal activity, in a place intended for parking. People don’t feel comfortable there. I can see our town being sued if we don’t address this issue. We have to move forward to address the problems. I’m in favor of upgrading our old camera system. It plays a small role. It would be used for nefarious purposes. We need to move quickly on this, and maybe hire private security to watch after this space. It’s a quicker solution than throwing it at the police department. Presence is needed. It can be community based. People being there and establishing a safe feeling. Everyone can help watch the space. Sheriff, private security… we should do some research into that and discuss it properly warned. We need to discuss cameras more if they will be around town. That’s a different discussion than the transportation center.
Liz – I think I’d like to hear more from the police department about what their options are. Project Care is excellent. The CSR project didn’t respect that program, I think it is in line with the concerns of the CSR process. It seeks to help people ready to be helped. It treats people in a humane way. Chief Hardy should report to us on what’s available. I don’t recommend using the sheriff.
Jessica Gelter – 20 years ago I was a Harmony rat, hanging out in the parking lot. we hung out and were vilified as what is wrong with society in Brattleboro. Hard to be a part of the community and be excluded from it as well. I would worry about private security. Our police force has excellent training and I would worry about the values a private group might bring as they police other folks who are struggling. Liz, you are right that Hardy is doing an excellent job… but the CSR review said that Project Care and social work should not be a part of the police department. It creates a power dynamic that is threatening. Other town staff should provide supervision and structure for alternative safety things. Not the police department.
Kate – DBA and Chamber – a statement to share – those who call this home, we like it here. We appreciate the wonderful things, and there’s so much… lately, crime and destructive behavior is on the rise. A great deal of discussion on this. As organizations that promote Brattleboro and encourage people to choose Brattleboro, and a constituent – Boys and Girls Club has expressed concerns. Business owners have been impacted. Small businesses have small margins, so small crimes have big impacts. This is helping elsewhere, but this is our community. Brattleboro should be safe and welcoming for all. Public engagement and discussion is important. We turn to elected officials to create long term solutions. Make it a priority, and share what concrete steps you will take.
Marta Gossage – I want to bring up homelessness is getting worse. We housed the homeless during covid, but won’t be a reality this winter. It will probably increase. As we talk about these things, not everyone who appears menacing is doing a drug or a crime. They need to go somewhere. Any solution that doesn’t include – a place to congregate and be social, to seek shelter, and to go to the bathroom – are essential. We can do project care, arrests… but people need to be somewhere and if we don’t have a place to be social, seek shelter, and go to the bathroom, nothing else will help.
Jessica – I was looking at annual meeting notes after WWII – there was discussion about helping people return to a normal life after their trauma and hardship. It was important to provide public activities and spaces so the could feel a part of the community and the community could move on and grow together. 1945 town meeting. The value of providing space is something we’ve done for a long time.
Tim – our agenda – I’d love to move on from this with a scope and soliciting bids. We have a lot of other things tonight.
Jessica – Nancy Braus has a comment to share…
Ian – thanks, Marta, for the reminder about the end of covid-era programs for housing. We need to plan for it now.
Robin Johnson – Stone Church – we’ve been broken into twice. We have cameras. They aren’t that effective. We gave video of someone breaking in. I don’t leave any cash in the safe. From video surveillance, in this case, the person at 2:30 was spry and together, very fast, went right in with a crowbar. Not someone stumbling around. Targeted. It happened to multiple businesses the same night. The issue is our perception and someone is taking advantage of it. The last thing, we at some point will have a violent interaction with a business owner and someone breaking in. We’re self monitoring. At some point it should be worse. We need to address the situation as a whole and the perception that the town is okay for crime.
Melanie – Brattleboro Country Club – we were broken into last night. I agree with Robin – outside of town it takes time for the police to get there. I expect I’ll be broken into again within the week. The didn’t get through the second door. I expect more damage. I appreciate the effort you are putting in, but it seems like a lot of talk and no concrete answers. You have to make some decisions to help businesses in town.
Jill Stahl Tyler – Community House – we have drug dealing across the street all day long. Our children walk to the park and teachers pick up needles. One student found a dead body on the gazebo. These kids are traumatized. We need to change what is going on. Exchange students – I have to fill out a form that lists the dangerous areas for them. I was with kids at Price Chopper and a drug deal was in the car next to us. I have to tell kids to avoid places. As a person who lives here – friends have businesses in town, overdosing, passing out in doorways. My own friends think about where to go. As a mom, I have a 17 year old daughter – someone solicited her at Price Chopper. She carries mace and a keychain full of stuff. We have a town that is really lovely. It’s beautiful, charming, quirky, but we’re at a tipping point. Listen to the public and think about how we can all be a part. It seems like anything goes – no stops, no arrests. Our attempts to be compassionate have overridden our ability to keep things safe. Why stay and retire here if it isn’t safe. It’s a tipping point. You are the leadership.
Sonia Silbert – I appreciate what folks have said and how much intense feelings her are on this right now. I few things – one, thinking about specific improvements like painting, lighting and cleaning – it is wonderful and not addressing the problem. Cameras don’t have much of an impact on crime, but do have an impact on privacy. Hearing the stories and about it being a tipping point. It’s also a tipping point for housing and social services as well. The hotel program ending will be huge. You spent the time and money for the community safety review. Many are impatient for you to do something about crime, but also for you to implement recommendations in the CSR. It was easy to pass it as it was theoretical. This is where the rubber meets the road. You don’t need another committee – take the theory and apply it to a complicated situation. Maybe pay for teams of social workers to patrol. You have 200 pages of recommendations. Barely implemented. You haven’t heard much from people doing direct support of these people accused. Calling people “those criminals” – it is happening at the selectboard. That’s what our town is saying – crime and addiction and losing housing are separate and need to be addressed with respect for those going through this.
Daniel – a few weeks ago… some more context. Ian and I set the agenda for these meetings. Dick wanted cameras on the agenda back in June. It a bit nebulous and we didn’t take him up on it, but other things came up on our plate and we moved forward. Meanwhile, the community is being discussed about community safety and harm. Personal direct experience of witnessing or being harmed. I connect with the impeding access to important services. We need to make sure kids can access the great services. This conversation didn’t just spring up. When I thought about it a month ago, I had questions for Patrick, but held off because we’re all busy. What’s happening? What do we know? What has had consequences? What sticks? We need to stay grounded in what is actually happening and it gets messy quickly. It’s hard to hear these stories and think what can I do about it? No easy answers, but what is happening? What do we actually know? What harm is being done? Good questions as we go forward.
Liz – I liked Daniel’s words. Homelessness and poverty are not crimes, but there are criminals amongst us who target and rob businesses in a strategic way in the middle of the night. That’s a crime issue to address. We also need a decent civil society. Complex issues and we need to starts somewhere, and the place to start is to replace the cameras at the transportation center.
Bill Daly – VT Country Deli and board of BMH – there ar programs to address a lot of these issues – safe places to do whatever. We’ve been broken in 3 times since august. We have cameras and have provided video which has helped in some cases to prosecute. We’ve also been asked to help with surveillance on Western Ave. It’s a valuable tool. Having the cameras will help. Businesses contribute to the community – we’re trying to support the town. Not trying to butt heads, trying to find a solution.
Ian – I think…
Greg Worden – I encourage you to do the cameras in the garage as a step. Lots of things to work on. There needs to be a presence of some kind.
Ian – we have some action to take on cameras and other things that have come up tonight.
Jessica – I would be willing to consider putting the cameras out to bid but not ready to get behind the idea yet. The resources could be better located. I’d like to see a more holistic picture. The other piece is that sounds like might be needed would be a caseworker available in the space to connect with folks? I’d like to see things balanced, not just one thing.
Tim – solicit bids for cameras…
Daniel – yes, the current system doesn’t work. I heard talk about applying community safety recommendations – it is still goal. Not losing sight of that work is important. Better maintenance of the space will show we value it. Making sure the spaces are rented – the more activity the better. I’m curious about legal stuff and drug free school zones… more info on that. One person mentioned the 1% sales tax allocated to support business owners downtown for security equipment. Not super excited with private security or sheriff department. And keep thinking of who is being harmed and what can we do about that? Robin pointed out that the profile of the person that came in isn’t the same as the person in the community we’re a bit afraid of. We struggle to meet all the needs at SEVCA. I know a little about the challenges. It is important to stick to facts. if there is crime in a town owned building, we should stop it. If people need help, we need to help. Starr at the Library is also frustrated. It’s grinding work to help vulnerable people.
Liz – it is challenging and replacing cameras is a first step, but I’d like to hear more from our police department. They can come up with a report that might be more helpful.
Ian – thank you everyone. hearing these perspectives is important and helpful and one of the reasons we are here. We are your outlet to speak to municipal government and it is our job to make sure your voices are heard. A lot of this involves the CSR, and a lot of that was listening to people, like tonight. We’re not increasing surveillance, just fixing broken cameras. I’d like a policy for how they’d be used. I’d like to see more work at the Transportation Center, and look at other ways to alleviate underlying issues. We need to do it all and it is a lot. We need to create a timeline.
Ian – so, thanks, and the direction is given. This will be the first of many conversations on this.
Ian – we’ll move on with the SEVEDs update…
I’m done for the evening. Downtown crime wore me out. c.
Wessel Flip Flop on "private services"
Tim Wessel on the transportation center:
We need to move quickly on this, and maybe hire private security to watch after this space. It’s a quicker solution than throwing it at the police department. Presence is needed. It can be community based. People being there and establishing a safe feeling. Everyone can help watch the space. Sheriff, private security… we should do some research into that and discuss it properly warned.
Tim Wessel on EMS services: (Brattleboro Reformer commentary)
Moving to a fire/EMS system shifts us away from a partnership with a private, unaccountable entity into one that is directly accountable to the taxpayers and residents of Brattleboro.
Same commentary in the Reformer
Just as many would rightly object to hiring an outside private security to protect our streets, we should recognize the advantages of using our own talented employees, not contractors, to care for our residents from the moment of crisis all the way to the hospital.