Letter: Brattleboro PD - not just arrests, but engagement

Editor of the Reformer:

I'd like to take the opportunity to address a few of the issues brought up in in a recent inquiry to Town Manager Peter Elwell about a letter to the Reformer this past weekend ("Brattleboro is dangerous," Oct. 7).

First, the statistics. The information I am going to discuss here is directly from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting and is for 2014 — the most recent year available on the website. The tool is public and simple to use if someone wanted to run additional tables. According to the charts, Brattleboro's crime rate is in fact higher than both Burlington and the state overall in most areas — in some cases significantly so.

It is important to note that statistics are merely numerical representations of what a police agency reported to the state and federal government for a given year. They may or may not represent the actual situation or what occurred in a given year. I do not mean to imply in any way that agencies do anything untoward with these numbers. Merely that different reporting systems exist. For example, is it accurate that Burlington suffered only two sexual assaults and did not have a single car stolen for the entire year? A call to that agency might yield a different response than the UCR information.

In order to provide some context, I also ran the numbers for Bennington and Rutland, two communities with populations, economies, and perhaps reporting systems somewhat more consistent with Brattleboro. At least one of those communities suffers a higher rate of robbery, aggravated assault, property crimes, and burglary than Brattleboro. Both, like Brattleboro, have higher rates than Burlington and Vermont overall.

As for the other, more subjective points in the letter, I can discuss Brattleboro's policing philosophy and strategy. It is both reflective of the vision of Chief Michael Fitzgerald, the desires of our elected leaders, and what we regularly hear from many citizens in Brattleboro. We aggressively investigate crime and arrest offenders where victimization has occurred. Examples are assaults and thefts.

That said, in our effort to increase public safety we find it highly valuable to recognize the individual and societal situations and problems that can influence when, where, why, and if these crimes are committed. This allows us to partner with community groups, treatment facilities, and others in order to not only hold people responsible for crimes but also try to reduce recidivism rates. We do not consider aggressive enforcement and compassionate policing to be mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite, we believe they complement each other.

Regarding downtown, the Brattleboro Police Department embraces both aspects of the above paragraph. We regularly make arrests for trespassing, disorderly conduct, and possession of drugs as well as issuing tickets for civil offenses such as drinking in public. However, we also make referrals to Turning Point and Groundworks Collaborative, and engage in walking patrols where officers attempt to engage in casual conversation with sometime-offenders. It is our hope to play what role we can in addressing root problems and not just symptoms.

Captain Mark Carignan,

Brattleboro Police, Oct. 11


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