Crime expert weighs in on Gov. Scott’s public safety plan

Published: Aug. 21, 2022 at 9:39 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After citing a rise in criminal activity throughout Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott put out his 10 Point Plan. NVU Lyndon Criminologist Brandon Stroup joined WCAX Sunday morning to talk about the plan.

Cam Smith: What are the kinds of things that you saw in that plan? And just how important is it for this plan to come out now?

Brandon Stroup: What I saw in the plan, were just a mix of what I would tell my students are a mixture of conservative and neoliberal policy decisions throughout the plan. The emphasis on recruiting former police officers to kind of bolster those numbers and a heavy emphasis on deterrence. Using presence of law enforcement as that deterrent model.

Cam Smith: I guess, based on your reading of the plan, are we shifting the way that we view public safety in the state?

Brandon Stroup: I believe some emphasis in there on creating stricter sentences for certain crimes, an emphasis on ensuring that citizens have their due process rights. I mean, a lot of this, I think, is coming off of the heels of the pandemic, where, you know, the judges, the court system wasn’t functioning properly. Clearly for safety reasons and then everyone’s health. I think it seems to me like more of a shift back to just pre-pandemic, where people’s due process rights are being respected. We’re going back to having speedy public trials.

Cam Smith: We’ve seen an unprecedented number of gunfire incidents and shootings here in Burlington. What is the likely scenario if the city of Burlington can’t get this under control? I mean, is there a way to get back to the kind of Burlington that we saw in 2012 to 2019, where there were an average of two gunfire incidents per year?

Brandon Stroup: I think we have to assess it in a historical context of what just happened to all of us during the pandemic. We’re experiencing a housing shortage, especially in Burlington, we’re experiencing high rates of inflation everywhere, all these things are impacting us. We all just came out of isolation for a year and a half. I think what we might be seeing is everyone’s different trauma responses, and I think that has to be assessed. If people can’t find housing, if people can’t afford to feed their children, you’re going to start seeing more and more desperation. A lot of research on crime and the causes of crime point to those sorts of social ills as something that a high number of all those things combined are going to cause strain and suffering and it might result in higher crime rates and more violent crime.

Cam Smith: Could this damage the reputation of not only the state of Vermont but for example the city of Burlington or vice versa?

Brandon Stroup: Governor Scott had to acknowledge this in his release. Vermont is still the fourth safest state in the nation. Our violent crime incidences are half that as the national average. In general, many crimes are down significantly compared to 5,6,7,10 years. ago. So yeah, I think for some it might deter them from coming to Vermont. But I think in general, the perception of Vermont is still that it’s a very safe place to come and to live.