Why Brattleboro is hiring private security guards to bolster its police force
Brattleboro's town government recently announced plans to hire two unarmed private security guards to support its police department.
The news comes at a time when local burglaries havenearly doubled, and town leaders point to systemic issues such as opioid addiction and mental health challenges as contributing factors.
Brooks Memorial Library has seen more people coming in with more complex needs – and it’s also been affected by two break-ins over the last year and a half, library Director Starr LaTronica said in an interview on Vermont Edition.
“Luckily there wasn't a whole lot of damage done. But it certainly puts everybody on edge, it gives everybody pause,” LaTronica said. “And you know, libraries are a microcosm of society.”
Some residents are concerned about safety when walking around downtown in the evening, particularly near the Transportation Center, according to Town Manager John Potter
Meanwhile, Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy said the police department is overworked, with 17 people responding to more than 800 calls per month.
“We do miss things,” Hardy said. “We do need more eyes and ears. We have things that are going on within the town [and] we are not catching them, or people will not be pointing them to us until it's too late.”
All of these concerns led to the town’s recently-announced pilot program to hire security staff.
How the security guard plan would work
The two unarmed security guards will be focused on patrolling the Transportation Center, the library and the parks and recreation building. They will not act as law enforcement, but they will have radios to contact the police if needed.
“We won't just hire them and just put them into place,” Hardy said. “My officers, and my training officers, will spend time with them to introduce them more readily into the community, and also give them guidelines as to what they are or are not to do as far as representation of the police department.” She emphasized that they will not be allowed to carry any type of weapon.
Hardy hopes the guards’ presence will deter “quality of life crimes” that affect the broad community, such as public urination and defecation, smoking, drinking and playing loud music.
Other plans, possibilities
The police department is located outside of the main town, off of I-91. A caller contacted Vermont Edition to ask whether the police department could set up a substation in town, possibly in the old police station next to the library. Hardy, the police chief, was not opposed to the idea if the police department could first build up its ranks.
“I think that, you know, having a substation would not be a priority right now, because there's really no one to put in it,” Hardy said. She noted that the Brattleboro Police Department is preparing to send five potential new officers to the Vermont Police Academy for training in August.
Potter agreed.“If, after we were back to full force, we were finding that that would have an impact, then I think we'd definitely want to explore it,” he said.
LaTronica, the library director, said the community can help by connecting people with resources – and by focusing on taking care of each other.
“I've heard from members of the community who say, you know, ‘What can I do? How do I approach someone who is in distress, who is in crisis?’” she said. “I'm really interested in doing a series of programs for the public on just being a good neighbor.”
Broadcast at noon Monday, June 12, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.