Orange County town confronts police coverage concerns

Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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CHELSEA, Vt. (WCAX) - Chelsea residents are raising the alarm about what they say is an ongoing crime problem in the area.

Community members in Chelsea are rallying around a fellow resident who was recently arrested after police say he took law enforcement matters into his own hands. “I don’t know if I agree with how it went down, but I agree with the fact that something has to be done,” said Steven Thomas, a local resident.

“I understand the frustration because this isn’t the first time,” said added Carrie Caouette-De Lallo.

The two Chelsea residents are talking about Wayland Childs. He owns an auto body shop in town that was recently burglarized on multiple occasions. After the most recent incident, Childs allegedly tracked down the suspect in Barre and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.

“You can only go to the police so many times and know that nothing is going to happen,” Thomas said.

The alleged act of vigilante justice landed Childs, not the suspect, behind bars. But community members say the incident is highlighting a growing problem of crime in the area and not having the resources to prevent it. “We want to see police taking more action. We would like the police to communicate back with us,” said Wayland’s father, Robert Childs.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department responds to about 40% of the calls in Chelsea and the Vermont State Police cover the rest. But residents say repeated break-ins and drug activity have exposed holes in the current coverage. That message is amplified around town with “We stand with Wayland” signs.

Sign in support of Wayland Childs, a local vigilante who allegedly took matters into his own...
Sign in support of Wayland Childs, a local vigilante who allegedly took matters into his own hands(WCAX)

“I think that is what the movement is about -- It’s the whole legal system,” Childs said.

The town contract with the sheriff’s department is a mere $12,000 per year. Town officials say they are currently reviewing it to see if the money could be best spent elsewhere.

“Do we want to use that time policing or do we want to be clear that when we make that call somebody is going to show up in a timely way,” Caouette-De Lallo said.

Town officials also acknowledge that paying for additional policing is not necessarily a bill the community is willing to foot. They say it’s about finding the right balance between public safety and the ability to pay for it. Residents, who love their town, say something needs to change. “The tension is rising. And people are frustrated and angry and for good reason,” Caouette-De Lallo said.

Wayland Childs declined to be interviewed for this story, but he did tell us he appreciates all the support he is getting from the community.

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