Customers asked to ring bell or call to be let inside
By Michael Bielawski
A handful of businesses in Burlington have resorted to locking their front doors and asking that visitors call first instead of simply walking in. The measure appears to be an attempt to mitigate rising crime rates such as theft from stores with small and valuable items such as jewelry.
“It’s affecting business”
John Jensen, the manager of Ten Thousand Villages on Church Street, took a moment to speak with the Vermont Daily Chronicle.
“What I will say is, that it is very challenging here right now,” he said.
He said the lack of police presence since they began facing staff shortages in recent years has been tough. In 2020 the City Council voted to reduce its force by about 30 percent.
“I think some people want more laws when the police department can’t enforce the laws that are already on the books,” Jensen added. “I don’t know what the solution is to it, but it’s frustrating because it’s affecting business in general.”
The popular Church Street area, featuring much of the city’s shopping, restaurants, and cafes, has been impacted. Some people are voting with their feet. “People are making European trips now instead of local vacations,” he said.
Drug use and mental health issues, police presence getting better
Ali Dumont, manager of Von Bargen’s, a jewelry shop on Church Street, said that other issues may be contributing to rising crime.
“With the uptick of drug use and mental health issues now, we started locking our door this winter after we had a theft,” she said.
Dumont continued, “So for a while, we saw a decreased police presence which made us feel not so very comfortable. But in the last, I would say, six months, we’ve seen a large uptick in police presence on the street.”
Store owners also are working together. A report appearing in Seven Days described how multiple stores were hit in one spree. With help from police, the alleged thief was identified and tracked down. Seven Days reported that ‘the stores banded together, trading info and images of the man, whom the police identified after publishing a photo of him.’ James Lisaius was arrested and $14,000 of stolen items were recovered.
The police suggest watching videotapes
Trena Isley, the Manager at Tradewinds Imports, spoke some about these issues including she shared some advice she got from police who otherwise cannot respond very much in person.
She said it’s not so much break-ins during off hours that are the concern regarding crime, rather it’s thefts that occur during operating hours. She said that calling the police gets little response, but they have advised to identify someone – usually via their camera systems – who has stolen from the store in the past. If they return, at least that person can be confronted and told to leave the store.
“That’s basically what the police told us to do,” Isley said.
Off the record
Not everyone wished to be on the record. One explained that to report on crime is a catch-22 because they would like to see action taken but they also need customers to come into their stores and believe that they will be safe doing so, which creates an awkward situation for store owners who are seeing thefts occur.
At least one other store person reiterated that when the police are called, there’s most often no response. This person also said any thefts of $800 or under don’t seem to justify the police to even look at the security tapes.
As of today, Michael Bielawski is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle. He is a former reporter for True North Reports.