Burlington businesses consider extending private security patrols
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - An effort to escort Burlington workers to their cars during the overnight hours had few takers this summer, but downtown businesses say there has been value in having a private security firm patrolling downtown and some want the patrols to continue.
The Burlington Business Association in July created the safety escort program for workers to help them feel safe. With few workers using the program, The BBA ended up using those services as “safety ambassadors” who could respond to low-level incidents downtown quickly.
“A lot of what we are seeing downtown is really more behavior-related, at least on Church Street, so they were able to pretty effectively deal with that,” said the association’s Kelly Devine.
While the program has since ended, Devine says they are looking to get it back up and running for the holiday season. “While they would be able to offer people walks to the car, they also would just be a presence on the street if visitors need help,” she said.
Devine says they needed the patrols to offset the dramatic drop in Burlington Police staffing in the wake of city council defunding efforts. “I think it’s going to be really important to have some presence on the street in addition to what perhaps our street outreach team or the Burington Police Department can offer this holiday season,” she said.
Despite a surge in gun-related incidents over the summer downtown, people we spoke to on Church Street say they feel safe, at least during the daylight hours “I feel safe coming down here during the day mostly. Obviously, it’s just like any city -- knowing when to just stay away from different areas. I try to stay with friends,” said Olivia Gowell, a first-year student at UVM.
“Coming down Church Street during the day I usually feel safe -- that’s the route I take -- but at night it can get a little iffy. Usually I’m with people,” said Julia Polvino, a first-year student at UVM.
“I feel pretty safe coming down to Burlington. I’ve been coming here since I was pretty little and things have slightly changed. I’ve always felt safe at least on Church Street during the day,” said Ryan Lavigne of Plattsburgh.
In addition to the BBA patrols, city officials say they have also extended the contract with private security firm Chocolate Thunder, to patrol City Hall Park through the end of October.
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