In Springfield Monday night, more than 200 people turned out to consider ways to deal with the problem of drugs and criminal behavior in town.
Rutland Police Chief James Baker was asked to come to Springfield to talk about Rutland’s approach to similar problems over the past few years. Baker is also the former director of the Vermont State Police. He said it takes more than police action to deal with drugs and crime. It takes creating an environment that isn’t conducive to illegal activity.
"There is more control over criminal activity and misbehavior when a community sets norms and holds people to those norms," Baker said. "It could be as simple as zoning and building enforcement, holding people accountable for what the expectation of the community is."
Baker recommended data-gathering technology to pinpoint trouble spots and focus police efforts more effectively. But he called relying on law enforcement alone "a set-up for failure."
"Because so many of the issues that are involved with the underlying crime issue," he said, "are either mental health-driven or substance abuse-driven, family dysfunction, have nothing to do with the police department." Baker said it takes a concentrated, collaborative effort to change a community for the better.