Welch Rides with St. Albans Police; Violent Crime Down in City

By Steph Machado

Published 03/10 2014 05:35PM

Updated 03/10 2014 06:38PM

ST. ALBANS, Vt. - It's one of many towns and cities that has struggled with opiate addiction and the crime that stems from it.

And it's where Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) chose to visit on a ride-along with St. Albans City Police Chief Gary Taylor.

"St. Albans has been a leader in trying to address some of these challenges in the drug epidemic," said Rep. Welch. His tour took him to places like Houghton Park and a parking lot behind the courthouse, both which used to be known for drug activity, assault, muggings, and violent crime. New lighting and video cameras have virtually eradicated the crime in those places.

"We don't have any crime there anymore," said Chief Taylor, referring to the parking lot. He says St. Albans had a head start.

"I do think the rest of the state is experiencing what we experienced early on," he said. The lights and cameras are part of a big increase in crime-fighting technology over the past five years. There are also laptops in the cruisers and license-plate readers. Federal grants provided the new resources, and Congressman Welch wants to show Washington it's working.

"There was an effort to cut it down in this tough budget time, but that's money well spent," he said. The grants include the Cops grant, which is for local police departments, and the Byrne grant, specifically for drug task forces. Chief Taylor says serious violent crime is down in the city since 2009.

The ride-along stopped by the Community Justice Center, which collaborates with the police department to get offenders and addicts back into society.

"That's one of the things that stands out for me about this place," said Marc Wennberg, the Director of the Community Justice center in St. Albans. "How well we work together in partnership with different agencies, whether its police, probation and parole, local service agencies, municipalities," he said.

That collaboration is what Welch wants to bring back to Congress.

"In Washington, there's too much gridlock, too much division, too much focus on where we don't agree," Rep. Welch said. "What you're seeing in St. Albans is acknowledging a real challenge with drugs, and then working together."

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