Safety escort program in the works to protect downtown Burlington workers

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Safety concerns have led the Burlington Business Association to create an escort program for downtown workers leaving their jobs late at night.

“It just would give me peace of mind knowing that they’ve got another set of eyes on their departure,” said Kristin Halvorson of Halvorson’s Restaurant.

Last week, Halvorson was involved in an altercation with a man on Church Street who used a hammer to beat someone who tried to help her. She says she’s never in her years seen something turn violent so fast.

The Burlington Business Association has announced a new safety escort program. Downtown employees will be able to call when leaving work from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. They will then be escorted by a trained security professional to their car or transportation.

“The more people on the block, the more vibrant the town is. So, I want people to come here and feel safe and I think this gives a lot of peace of mind,” Halvorson said.

This effort comes as the Burlington Police Department continues to address budget cuts which they say have led to short-staffing during overnight hours. That, along with continued safety concerns from workers, led the Burlington Business Association to spearhead this program.

“For over a year hearing from women and downtown employees about safety concerns, about harassment happening, about being witness to violent events,” said Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association.

After several incidents of violence late at night downtown just recently, they want to start the program quickly, so they are working to find private funding that would pay for private local security services that are trained.

Over at Homeport, co-owner Mark Bouchett says they normally would have hours until 9 p.m., but that’s not possible with current staffing, partially due to safety concerns.

“Safety and security, the well-being, the good feeling of our staff is like about the most important thing to us, so having that available to them, I think, is a great thing,” Bouchett said.

More details will be released next week, but they will be available by phone or text. The program is aimed at helping downtown workers, but if the public feels unsafe they can tap into this as well.

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Burlington to start new safety escort program

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