The recent rash of armed robberies in and around Barre has evoked a range of reactions. While some of that response has been measured — business owners reviewing procedures and installing safeguards, for example — some of the other reactions have been extreme. A communitywide effort to raise thousands of dollars in reward money for the suspect’s (or suspects’) capture has demonstrated both a sense of togetherness and a mob mentality with a hefty bounty as the prize. Online, on social media, there have been shrill calls for civilians taking matters into their own hands, with threats of vigilantism and even death.
Mayor Thomas Lauzon and Police Chief Tim Bombardier have done an excellent job in recent days urging our citizens to let police do their jobs. Federal authorities are assisting and have indicated that whoever is suspected of the robberies will be prosecuted at a federal level to make sure the message makes it back to the collective.
We must let the professionals do their jobs; they will catch and prosecute these men. It is the safe, correct course of action.
We know they are after cash or Oxycontin, as the Medicine Shoppe and Rite Aid holdups showed us. This is addiction-based criminal activity — acts of desperate men.
Lauzon has been encouraging citizens to be mindful, watchful and smart. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Instead, he is instructing, be the best witness you can be. As we all watch out for strange behavior and criminal activity, especially in this heightened state of concern, odds are against the criminals.
This is a statewide problem — one that the governor named as his priority for the coming year. In recent weeks, we have seen similar drug-related crimes play out in Rutland, Burlington, Montpelier and even smaller communities where burglaries and break-ins have become commonplace along back roads. This is Barre’s turn to be in the headlines, and that’s an unfortunate series of events. Contrary to popular belief, this is not just Barre’s bad luck; it is a sad affirmation that the quality of our lives here in Vermont is being deeply affected by drugs. Today it is Barre; tomorrow, the news emanates from another Vermont community, and the fear will grow there with similar disdain and despair.
Police, community and business leaders all understand there is much at stake, especially as Barre prepares to welcome hundreds of state workers and guests to City Place and the recently renovated Blanchard Block. The next few months are pivotal for Barre’s long-term future, and no one wants the trophies accumulated over the last few years to be tarnished by a crime spree.
Soon enough, central Vermont will breathe a sigh of relief when these criminals are caught, and they will be in due course. We must be mindful, as we look out for one another in this challenging hour, that this is probably just the tip of an iceberg that will have implications for many years to come. Drugs elicit crime, and crime affects our communities, neighborhoods and families at the most personal levels. We must continue to prepare and steel ourselves for what’s next, no matter what that desperation looks like.
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