I didn’t grow up here. I guess because of my New York beginnings I’m not considered a native, but one thing I am is a concerned citizen. From those whom I’ve talked with that have grown up around here they describe a Mayberry-esque community that has the chief of police walking the beat with more "How ya doin" than "stop that!" They describe a nicer time when Brattleboro was a peaceful little hamlet that served as Windham County’s "city" where folks from Wilmington, Newfane and Marlboro could come once a week to do their "big shopping." And even though Brattleboro is the biggest town in Windham County it was still very much a part of the quiet Vermont lifestyle that folks grew to appreciate. So, what happened?
In recent years we’ve seen problems that in the old days only big cities like Boston, New York and Chicago had. We’ve always had crime, but it’s been petty theft, shoplifting or someone getting behind the wheel after they’ve had too much to drink. None of it good, but certainly more tolerable and fixable than what we’re looking at today.
Drugs have infiltrated our community (well, not just ours, but for the sake of this column, I’m only going to deal with ours). Twenty years ago, if there was a murder or someone found a dead body, it would shake the very foundation of the community. Now, it’s becoming a little too common if you ask me -- even though it’s still few and far between.
Now some can blame a myriad of different things -- from lack of parenting to the Internet dumbing down people. But for as long as the Internet has been around and bad parenting has always existed, I can honestly say that most things that happen, happen because there’s a third element involved. Those elements could be greed, jealousy or drugs. But it would seem that, at least here, drugs have become more and more of a problem. It’s causing the very transformation from a quiet small town to not-so-quiet small town and frankly I don’t like it.
I choose to live in Brattleboro because, for the most part, people here are nice. It’s a community that bands together when it needs to and minds its own business when it needs to. It says hello on the street and helps old ladies across the street. At least that’s how I see it. But recently we had a drug-related shooting in town that, frankly, was something straight from a prime time TV show and I’m sorry to say, it changes how you move around Brattleboro.
It speaks to the very core of the problem when our police department is called in to do a routine search with a warrant and it ends up headline news. Thankfully, all of our local police officers are safe and unharmed (at least physically), but the fact remains we have a seedy underbelly that is staining this community. But what the hell can you do about it? Short of going all vigilante like Paul Kersey ("Death Wish"), which is simply not an option, what can we as citizens do?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer; we could beef up police presence or call in the National Guard, but at the end of the day who wants that? There has to be something that we can do.
On May 15, at the Brooks Memorial Library, WKVT will be conducting an open forum called "A Call to Action." We have invited folks from government, local officials and people in the know that can help us navigate through these murky waters. "A Call to Action" is aimed at finding real world solutions to a very real problem that starts with opiate addiction and heroin addiction and how it’s affected our town. So hopefully we can just stop shrugging our shoulders and saying, what the hell is up with that?