Crack down on thugs, not skateboarders


Friday, June 26
I am writing in response to last week's report in the Reformer on Brattleboro's new policy of "zero tolerance" for skateboarding.

The fact that skateboarders were juxtaposed in the same breath as underage smokers, illicit drug activity and loiterers is appalling and ludicrous. The strategy that the town is taking, in lumping skateboarders in with inherently criminal activity, demonstrates a lack of critical thinking by these people. They fail to understand a group of people who are inherently good and have done nothing wrong.

Brattleboro's de facto "ethnic cleansing" of skateboarders is reprehensible and outrageous. There is effectively no place for skateboarders to go and engage in this healthy, creative, individualistic and special activity.

If people bothered to take the time to listen to youth, maybe they would achieve some rational understanding.

Instead, Brattleboro implements a zero tolerance policy which quashes a vital recreational outlet and results in more kids being on the street, with nothing to do, more idle time, and increased risk to becoming ensnared by the trappings of drugs and alcohol.

It's long past time for people who misunderstand, stereotype and judge skateboarders to take the time to listen and try and understand, rather than casting aspersions in a blindly blanketing manner that is so distorted and far from the truth.

Sure, there are a few bad apples in every bunch, but that equally applies to skateboarders as it does doctors, politicians and bankers.

I am in my 30s. I try to skateboard every day and I've been skateboarding since 1985. I have not had a single sip of alcohol in more than 17 years, let alone drugs or cigarettes. I am a practicing attorney with a doctoral degree. I don't even have as much as a speeding ticket let alone a criminal record. I serve on boards and volunteer for several community organizations, including a homeless shelter.

Those who blindly judge should take a look at people like me and recognize that we are not criminals, thugs, or drug users ... and also realize that there are many productive, hard working citizens who love to engage in the healthy creative outlet that is skateboarding.

Brattleboro is a special town, but I am concerned about what has been occurring lately. I work in an office above the Harmony Parking Lot. Many downtown workers and residents are afraid. They are afraid to walk into the parking garage. They are afraid to walk on Elliot Street, or through the Harmony lot.

No one should feel afraid in Brattleboro. No person should have to feel intimidated. By allowing these thugs and derelicts to party all day and night in the streets, we have created a ghastly, unsafe environment for people here.

I would love to see the police - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - at the confluence of the Harmony lot and Elliot Street. Their presence would clean the area up real fast. If they issued large tickets for ordinance violations, and then when the offenders didn't pay, rounded them up and arrested them, you'd see the streets clear out in a matter of weeks.

The only people who should be afraid in Brattleboro are the lawbreaking thugs who hang out and harm people. They should be very afraid, not only of the Brattleboro police, but of citizens who will not stand for it any longer.

For Brattleboro to have taken this long and still not provide skateboarders with a place to go is nothing short of inexcusable. The tiny towns of Wardsboro, Wilmington, Stratton and Londonderry all have skateboard facilities, yet Brattleboro, which is the hub of southern Vermont, does not. Skateboarders have been given the run around for so long now that the frustration is getting to be unbearable. Until last week the Brattleboro Police had been great about tolerating skateboarders and being sympathetic to the fact that we are afforded no other space to go by the town. But now, with the new "zero tolerance" policy, it is just adding insult to injury and we must not stand for it.

The police need to round up the thugs who come to the Harmony lot to sell drugs, get drunk, start fights and mistreat women. I have zero tolerance for these people and it's obvious to me that we should instead celebrate skateboarding, and focus our efforts on eliminating these thugs who, in sharp contrast to skateboarders, are hurting property and other people.

Spencer Crispe, a Brattleboro native, lives in Wilmington.


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