State police partnership aims to build trust in the community

ROYALTON, Vt. (WCAX) There is a new push within the Vermont State Police to give residents more of a stake in the communities they call home. And one father who lost his son to a homicide is helping to lead the charge.

The initiative is called "Intelligence Based Policing." It's a partnership between police and the communities they serve to wipe out drug activity and other related crimes which can have deadly consequences. That's something the father of Austin Colson knows all too well.

"The more people pull together, the easier it is to solve a problem," said Dana Colson. His son, Austin, was shot to death more than a year ago. His body was found in a Norwich barn last spring, but the homicide remains unsolved. And while Colson continues to wait for justice, his focus has shifted to helping others. "It's about saving kids. Mine is gone, but maybe I can help save somebody else's kids."

Intelligence Based Policing creates a partnership with Vermont State Police and the communities they serve. Weekly meetings allow the public to share tips, voice concerns, and offer solutions to criminal activity in the area. Much of the focus is on drug dealing and related crimes like domestic violence and burglaries.

"We look at our calls, the call volume, the type of calls they are. We identify where the problem area is, where we are getting more calls and that is where we are going to focus on," said Vermont State Police Sgt. Jerry Partin.

Currently, the initiative is taking place in two areas of the state, the Royalton and Middlesex Barracks. Wednesday night meetings take place every week at the Tunbridge School and Williamstown High School. "It kind of puts a sign out to everybody else that the drug activity is not welcome in our community," Colson said.

The program has several goals. Along with reducing crime, it's also intended to build trust and foster positive relationships between police and residents. "It's not just a couple months then we are away. We are there to be established for the long haul," Sgt. Partin said.

"It's going to be a long battle, but if everybody pulls together, we can get it done," Colson said.

Police are continuing to investigate the Colson homicide. They say they are following new leads but to date they have resulted in no arrests.