Rutland, Vt- Frustration was on full display Thurs. night at a public safety town hall in Rutland as many audience members spoke out against the city’s mayor, police chief, and even a few state lawmakers, about changes they’d like to see in order to reduce crime.
The meeting was meant to address a rise in crime in the town and show state lawmakers why changes are needed.
Some of Vermont’s top officials were in attendance, including Governor Phil Scott and multiple state legislators. People who came to the town hall meeting wanted to make their voices heard, with many expressing anger over a rise in crime in Rutland along with other state issues, and some were even upset about their ability to ask questions at the meeting itself.
Unlike traditional town halls, people were asked to submit public safety questions and concerns online ahead of time or send some in by scanning a QR code, and a panel on stage consisting of city and state leaders picked which ones to answer.
Rutland Mayor Mike Doenges says this was done for a few reasons, largely to give people who couldn’t attend a chance to ask questions, but that didn’t stop people in the audience from shouting out.
At one point State Sen. Brian Collamore said he felt the state’s judicial branch was performing to the best of its ability, to which one attendee yelled out, “Disagree! Disagree!” and another asked, “Why are we here!”
Despite the unruliness, the panel still answered a number of questions about Rutland’s rising crime rate and shared data highlighting the biggest increases.
That includes a 43% increase in assaults, a 13% rise in burglaries, and a 7% increase in overall call volume for police, all over the past year. Members of the panel said they share the community’s frustration and anger over the rise in crime.
Collamore, said, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Town Mayor Mike Doenges wants to address the rise in crime, saying, “These numbers are real, and they are seriously challenging for our officers and our community members. We are trying to deal with this every day, this is why we’re discussing this tonight.”
The panel later discussed a number of issues currently holding back state entities like law enforcement, the Department of Corrections, and the Judicial System and called on the state’s legislature to pass bills that will help solve those problems.
Many of the lawmakers in attendance say they’re in agreement and will introduce bills this coming session that address certain public safety issues.
West Rutland Rep. Tom Burditt (R) said, “I think it’s as crazy as anybody does that somebody getting into my car without permission is not against the law, but it’s not.”
Rutland Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said, “We’ve asked the legislators to consider the impact their decisions have on our ability to provide a safe community.”
The next legislative session begins in early January, and the lawmakers on the panel said they plan on introducing legislation that aims at addressing the rise in crime.