Use public funds for people’s basic needs, not rent-a-cops

BELLOWS FALLS — Nancy Braus recommends that the town of Brattleboro hire “private security” to patrol the streets of downtown.

This is a predictable trajectory. Downtown Brattleboro already has a fountain, a sketchy parking garage, shops selling items I can't afford, and an ugly glassed-in food court. I guess the only thing missing to complete its transformation into an upscale mall is a posse of rent-a-cops. But can't we get gaggles of goth teenagers, a Cinnabon, and some escalators first?

All Gen-X snark aside - and I don't mean to make light of how scary and frustrating it is to have one's business repeatedly burgled - I was stunned to read Ms. Braus's suggestion of using public funds to add yet another layer of violence and surveillance to poor and struggling people's lives.

Not only is having roving gangs of private-security rent-a-cops a frightening idea for anyone remotely interested in civil liberties, it actively ignores real solutions to property crime.

More people on the streets brandishing weapons, more incarceration, and furthering the divide between “us” and “them” (people who own property versus people who are struggling with poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction) do nothing to reduce crime. They only temporarily moves “criminals” out of the realm of property owners. A better solution is to use public funds to meet people's basic needs.

Countless essays and books detail both the daily terrors inflicted on poor people in the name of “law and order” and examine proven methods for reducing property crime by implementing stronger, universal social supports. Ms. Braus doesn't have to go too far to find these essays and books. They're lining the shelves of her store.

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