Open Letter to Town Manager Peter Elwell Regarding Rampant Theft in Brattleboro

*Emailed him tonight, posting here to see if anyone else cares, or if it’s just me.

Dear Mr Elwell,

I’m a Brattleboro resident, and in the past week alone, have been the victim of three seperate thefts, two at my residence, one at my car while parked in the parking garage. After the first theft, I set up a security cam at my home to catch anyone stupid enough to try it again. My method was effective, caught a neighbor stealing from doorstep two hours after setting up the security cam in plain view at my door. I caught the entire theft and follow up confession in HD with audio, emailed all of the evidence to BPD, and despite all that, they won’t even issue a summons to the thief, who lives two apartments down from me in apt 306, at 9 Canal St here in Bratt.
Theft is rampant in this town. I mind my own business, could care less about victim-less crimes, but feel that being robbed is a gross violation of my rights as a citizen. What exactly are the police doing to send a message to thieves and help stop this massive problem here? I basically did their job for them, and it’s still not enough for them. The bait car model is extremely effective when implemented properly, yet the police demonstrate no interest in doing anything to solve a problem that could easily be addressed with an ounce of effort. Do I just need to accept that anything I own can be stolen at any time in Brattleboro and police will do nothing about it? If that’s the case, do you think it’s wise to force citizens to resort to vigilante justice to protect themselves and their property here?

Comments | 7

  • Theft

    Hi, I’m sorry this happened to you. Did you report the th ft and confession to the management of your building. I would hope that there were some kind of rules about tenants stealing from each other.
    I’m not surprised that your email to the BPD went unanswered. I’m guessing answering emails is not high on the list for town employees. We did, in fact, hear from a Selectboard member that she never read or answered emails from constituents.
    What about if you actually go to the police station and actually file a complaint against the tenant who stole from you. At best, it would get some resolution- at worst- it would be on record. Again, sorry this happened.
    Kris Alden

  • A reply from the Town Manager

    Town manager Peter Elwell sent this along:

    “From: Peter Elwell
    Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2018 2:12 PM
    Subject: FW: Thieves welcome in Brattleboro?

    Thank you for your email. I can assure you that BPD and the rest of Town government do not condone anyone stealing from anyone else and I appreciate having the opportunity to address your concerns.

    When I looked into this matter, I was advised the following: On 6/11/18 you called the police and reported an alleged larceny at your residence. While investigating that incident, the officer noted that $100 cash was laid out on a table in a common area with a surveillance camera pointed at it. During the investigation, the officer discovered that you had laid this money out in the open, in a semi-public place, with the explicit purpose of enticing someone to steal it. The officer explicitly advised you not to do this. Sometime later, you again called the police and advised that you had caught someone on camera stealing $40 from the location where you had left it. You had confronted the woman and she had confessed to you and returned the money. You reported this to BPD and provided the video. After evaluating all this information, the officer and his supervisor decided not to charge the woman and their decision was supported by BPD’s command staff.

    Here is what BPD provided to me as a general statement about this type of activity: “It is counterproductive and dangerous for citizens to initiate investigations of fellow citizens. This is exacerbated by a citizen setting a circumstance to entice another person to commit a crime. Police making arrests for crimes (petty larceny in this case) that are committed this way could serve to encourage this behavior. It certainly does not serve the best interest of justice and is not consistent with our mission statement. It can lead to additional disorder, vigilante justice, neighborhood disputes, and additional property crimes. Regarding a ‘bait car’ type of investigation, this is a tool that has occasionally been used with moderate success by BPD. We will continue to use it on a limited basis. Such investigations require planning, assigned staff, and must be designed to comply with strict criminal case law to avoid being entrapment.”

    The command staff and officers of BPD take criminal activity in our community very seriously. They invest substantial resources in crime prevention activities and diligently investigate crimes that do occur. In fact, BPD’s clearance rate is 40% higher than the average for the northeastern United States and 64% higher than for the entire United States. A police department’s “clearance rate” is a measure of how often they bring successful closure to an investigation through an arrest or through a finding of probable cause where no arrest occurs because the suspect is deceased, is referred to a diversion program, or remains free because of a prosecutor’s decision not to file charges.

    If you have any continuing concerns about BPD’s polices or about your particular interactions with BPD, please know that the Citizens Police Communications Committee (CPCC) exists for the explicit purpose of enabling citizens to have such concerns reviewed by a committee of their fellow citizens. You can contact the CPCC via Jan Anderson at the Town Manager’s Office by calling 251-8151 or by emailing and including “CPCC” in the subject line.

    Peter B. Elwell

    Town Manager

    Town of Brattleboro”

  • Appreciate Response

    I was greatly appreciate of Mr. Elwell’s prompt and personalized response. I responded with a final email:

    Thank you, appreciate your response. I was really upset at the time, but have since let it go, as it seems like less of a big deal after having a few days to reflect on it. BPD apparently did do further investigation into the apartment in question, for much more serious crimes reported by other neighbors, so my main concern, that the individual in question was ruining the safe haven of safety our apartment building has been for the approx. six year I have lived here, is being addressed. As frustrating as it was to have been robbed three times in a week, I do have faith in BPD to keep the town safe, and am grateful for your personal attention to the matter. Thanks again for your time.

  • Bottom Line

    I was extremely frustrated being a victim of three thefts in a week, I over-reacted, and made the issue a much bigger deal than need be. With the benefit of hindsight, BPD and a personalized response from the town manager went above what’s reasonably expected of them, and I regret making an issue out of it.

  • Concluded

    I feel more than enough was done to address my concern, and would like to close and delete this thread if possible. Thanks

  • Aggressive Panhandling in the Price Chopper/Market 32 parking lot

    This past Monday, June 18th, on my way into shop at Market 32 I was approached by a panhandler who asked me for $$$ so he could send message via the Western Union agency there. I replied that I “couldn’t help him,” which in turn provoked a series of shouting and ranting threats (I’m gonna **** up up!). I chose not to help him because I suspected that any funds received would go immediately to buying drugs, not to sending a telegram (to ask for $$$ from a parent or friend?). He then walked up the sidewalk past the CVS, the Chinese restaurant and the dollar store making similar threats to anyone who others on the bus bench or waiting for their cab in front of the Market 32 entrance, alternating his threats with curses about Brattleboro. I felt so threatened that I will be locking the doors to my car whenever I shop in Brattleboro, and assessing the environment surrounding my car before I exit it to shop. Also, am tempted to “pack heat,” a “38” Sat. night special I inherited from my father!

  • Emagicmtman

    I would be more frightened by a person who is so frightened by such an incident, and who is tempted to pack heat, rather seeking assistance from fellow shoppers to help with the situation and/or phone the police.

    I am concerned that you stayed and watched the disturbed individual walk “up the sidewalk past the CVS, the Chinese restaurant and the dollar store making similar threats to anyone who others on the bus bench or waiting for their cab in front of the Market 32 entrance, alternating his threats with curses about Brattleboro. ”

    Next time you feel ” So threatened” I suggest that you seek other shoppers for assistance in phoning the police, and/ or talking to a store employee to see if this shouting individual is someone who people know as needing assistance.

    To be so threatened to consider the solution as to “Pack heat” is concerning. I can comprehend being stunned, but it is concerning that you felt so threatened without taking appropriate action and yet stayed to watch the same behavior continue toward others. Hopefully we all can learn to look to each other to take immediate appropriate action, so that we are less tempted to find a more drastic conclusion, that seems to be less effective and more disturbing.

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