Scott, Siegel offer contrasting views on spike in violence

In the wake of a spike in violent crime and a shortage of police, Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday released a new action plan to address public safety concerns.
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 7:01 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - In the wake of a spike in violent crime and a shortage of police, Gov. Phil Scott Wednesday released a new action plan to address public safety concerns across Vermont. Now, his Democratic challenger says his plan is addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes.

Governor Phil Scott says his new Public Safety Enhancement & Violence Reduction 10-Point Action Plan is aimed at reinforcing law enforcement capacity and has a focus on holding those committing violence accountable.

“Public safety is a high... probably the highest priority of state government, any government,” Scott said.

The 10-point framework focuses on three core goals. The first is to reinforce frontline law enforcement capacity and prioritize immediate reduction, prevention, and prosecution of violent crime statewide. Those initiatives ensure the Vermont State Police can provide mutual aid to local departments and hire retired officers to temporarily fill vacancies.

Scott says that in some cases, like Burlington, decisions to cut the police force have resulted in public safety challenges. “This was part of the city of Burlington’s strategy. They sought to defund the police, and what we’re seeing right now is a lack of enforcement on the streets of Burlington,” he said.

Governor Scott is also calling for prosecutors to hold violent offenders accountable. “We want to recognize that law enforcement is frustrated as well, because they don’t see the accountability. So, I think there are a lot of levels that we can, I think, be better,” Scott said.

“The reason we have any increase is because people are suffering. It’s not because people are bad. So, we need to figure out what the root cause is and address that instead of just the symptoms of that suffering,” said Brenda Siegel, the Democratic candidate running for governor. She says increasing fear about crime does a disservice to Vermonters. “We are safe here. This is primarily a safe and healthy state where we have some real issues around despair and we are not funding mental health services.”

Siegel also says she wants the state to focus on housing, jobs, and substance use so that people don’t commit crimes of despair.

She says she is fine-tuning her public safety plan and will release it soon.

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