Finding new ways to fight crime in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Finding new ways to fight crime in Vermont

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From border to border, state leaders say crime is out of control in Vermont. Prosecutors, judges, advocates and legislators blame a growing opiate addiction epidemic and are scrambling to find solutions.

"We've got the smartest minds in the state right here on a problem we're botching pretty bad," said Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

During a conference held at the Vermont Law School in Royalton, the governor challenged every link in the criminal justice chain to be bold.

Those experiencing relative levels of success shared their stories.

"Early intervention works," Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark said.

Clark says when he ran the Bellows Falls Police Department they tried everything possible to curtail domestic violence. Many ideas failed, but adding an independent social worker to chat with the most frequent offenders between incidents led to a 28 percent reduction.

"We were so shocked," Clark said. "We thought we ran the numbers the wrong way."

"We all serve and protect. We just serve and protect in a different way," Bellows Falls social worker Christine Bullard said.

Rutland Police Chief James Baker says arresting and re-arresting addicts doesn't work.

"We policed the city very hard, very hard-- black gloves and night sticks, and that's not going to work anymore," Baker said.

The chief says they're uncovering counter-intuitive crime trends by analyzing data, a technique used in large cities across the country. Baker says Vermont doesn't always need to create its own approach.

"We need to stop thinking nationally tested programs-- that are validated on a national level and they work-- and then decide we're going to make it Vermont," he said.

Baker says his unit no longer measures success by arrests and drug confiscations, but by the department's ability to break the pattern of crime. Experts hope continued innovation with evidence-based success can help the state in the constant battle between law and order.

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