Residents Brainstorm on Crime Prevention in Stamford
Residents packed into the clubhouse at the Stamford golf course to discuss crime prevention.
More than 100 residents of Stamford and Clarksburg, Mass., packed into the clubhouse at the Stamford Valley Golf Course on Saturday afternoon to discuss how best to protect their homes and their neighbors.
Both rural towns, mostly bedroom communities, have limited police protection. Stamford is covered by state police and contracts with the Bennington County Sheriff's Department for patrols 20 to 30 hours a week. Clarksburg has a small police force, mostly part time, with back up from the Massachusetts State Police.
"We as a citizens need to be vigilant, see what's going on. We can't just rely on the police," said James Sarkis of Stamford, an organizer of the meeting. "We chose to live here — we need to figure out how we can help them and help each other."
Over the past six weeks, nearly a dozen burglaries and attempted burglaries have occurred in the two towns. While there's no evidence the perpetrator's been the same in all the incidents, one suspect has been indentified as being at or near several of the more recent ones.
The primarily daytime burglaries have struck fear into many homeowners, particularly the communities' senior citizens.
Over 90 minutes, the participants discussed the use of security systems (ADT in particular), reporting vehicles and people out of place in the small towns, sharing information through e-mail and online sites, varying daily routines, taking names and numbers off answering machines, demanding greater state police coverage and setting up neighborhood crime watches.
Nearly a third of those at the meeting, when asked, indicated they'd be interested in creating a crime watch. Setting up a watch would take a lot of coordination, said Ken Sullivan-Bol, who'd investigated the possibility. His search had found little to no crime watch programs in New England; the bulk appeared to be in the Midwest.
However, he volunteered to attend a training program and bring back the information if enough people were interested. The state police had also offered to send an officer to help residents plan a program.
The overriding message gleaned from the meeting was communication: call the police — call if you see something suspicious, call if you see someone suspicious — and let your neighbors know if something's happened.
Anthony Liporace of Clarksburg, whose fiancee walked in on the thief in action two weeks ago, said at least 11 people had noticed the suspect near his house, but didn't tell him until after the fact. Now, he said, people call him about happenings on the other side of town.
"I'm a deputy sheriff now in Clarksburg," he joked.
But several citizens expressed concern over the response time of the police, which in Stamford can mean an hour or more. "By the time they get here, [the suspects] are gone," said one woman.
Select Board member Sheila Lawrence said the time may be shorter since the state police and deputy sheriff's were cooperating far more than before. Board member Helen Fields also urged residents to call police: "The best thing that we can do is make the police work for us."
Another resident raised the issue of reinstating a town constable or hiring a police officer. The town has paid for officers to be trained and "then they get better offers," Lawrence said, and a constable wouldn't be available for most of the time because he or she would likely have a full-time job.
Residents were also cautioned about calling the fire department since it's purpose is for fire and medical emergencies. Firefighters arrival could scare someone but couldn't capture them.
In the meantime, a Facebook group, Stamford Vermont Crime Watch, has been set up and residents of both towns have been posting suspicious sitings on the most recent iBerkshires story. (All those comments have moved to a blog format to make postings easier to follow.The blog is not "active" yet but can be found here.)
Attendees generally agreed to work further on collaboration and a number of Clarksburg residents said they planned to attend the Selectmen's meeting on Wednesday night. For further information, check the Facebook page or contact Clarksburgcw@gmail.com or Stamfordcw@gmail.com.
To contact police, call 911 or reach the Vermont State Police at 802-442-5421 and the Clarksburg Police at 413-663-7795.