Our opinion: Little by little, petty crime takes a toll


With the arrest of a number of people suspected of breaking into vehicles and stealing whatever they can lay their hands on, people in Brattleboro are breathing a sigh of relief. Over the course of about two weeks, the suspects are alleged to have smashed windows on several vehicles and simply opened unlocked doors in a quest for money and any items they could sell for cash.

Items included two GPS units, prescription drugs, a power drill, a camera, a skill saw, a sleeping bag, an inflatable mattress, a Camelback, an iPad, gift cards, hand tools, a check book and wallets containing money.

While it all seems so petty, the reality is these aren't just inconsequential items for many of the victims. One woman, a third-year law student, told the Reformer her computer and all her school work was stolen, as was a duffel bag full of clothes and other personal items, things she will struggle to replace.

"I'm a first generation college student and have struggled to put my self through college and now through law school," she said.

While many of the victims might be reimbursed by car insurance for damages to their vehicles, homeowner's and renter's insurance probably won't cover much of the cost of any items stolen and not recovered because many of those plans have deductibles. The victims are simply out of luck and might have to replace their lost goods out of their own pockets.

And can you imagine having your wallet with all of your identification and credit and debit cards stolen? Not only is it worrisome, wondering how your cards might be used, there's the hassle of having to contact all of your creditors and banks to cancel all the cards and request new ones. And stolen IDs? Those things cost money to replace.

But perhaps most troublesome for the victims -- and the community at large -- is the sense that our neighbors can't be trusted. A certain small-town innocence is lost every time crimes like these are committed, and we know places like Brattleboro need to retain all the charm and wonder that make them special places. Petty crimes like those alleged hurt a town's image, make us wary of each other and deplete valuable police resources that should be spent on more serious crimes.

While we are sure the suspects will have a whole host of reasons for their actions -- whether it's substance abuse, unemployment or something else -- we don't care. These crimes contaminate a community and it's an infection that can be hard to recover from. But we don't expect that any entreaties we offer will have any effect on those intent on committing crimes for whatever reasons they feel justify their actions. Some people just need to be caught and punished to, hopefully, learn their lessons.

All we can do is take the valuables out of our cars, lock our doors and keep an eye out for suspicious activity. It's not what any one of us really wants to do, but sometimes the best you can do is protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors and hope for the best.


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