Vigilante Vermonters attempt to restore law and order
by John Klar
Recent instances of Vermont store-goers detaining and even assaulting would-be thieves reveal growing societal tensions seeded by progressive policies. Vermont’s law enforcement services are anemic due to anti-police rhetoric, racialization of courts, and lax prosecutorial policies. Vermont is not enforcing basic criminal laws, as gang-related violence and property crimes transform communities, drug overdoses skyrocket, and businesses are compromised. Citizens are tired of being victimized by government failure: many are taking matters into their own hands.
On September 6, customers restrained a shoplifter in a Walmart parking lot in Berlin, Vermont. After arresting and charging the suspect, the Berlin Police Department sought to discourage similar public actions in an official statement:
“The Berlin Police Department must advise against taking the law into your own hands,” the BPD press release about the incident stated. “While it can be frustrating to witness injustice or experience wrongdoing, it is important to remember that there are legal systems and authorities in place to handle these situations. Taking the law into your own hands can result in unintended consequences and may even lead to further harm or escalation of the situation. Remember, respect for law and order helps to maintain a peaceful and just society.”
The police cannot very well advocate otherwise, but this statement raises the question: if Vermont’s progressive Legislature had respected law and order, this crime wave would not require citizen interdiction. It is in the name of a false utopian “peaceful and just society” that Vermont is being systematically dismantled — culturally, economically, and socially.
Criminals have no respect for law and order in Vermont because of no-bail policies that allow them to commit numerous offenses in the same day; court dockets backed up by COVID and rising crime; unjustified allegations of racism against police based on skewed data; lax sentencing and parole; increased ages of juvenile prosecution (to 19 for most crimes); diversionary programs; and free synthetic opioids for inmates. Additional progressive evils incinerating Green Mountain public safety have included decriminalization of drugs, legalization of prostitution, opposition to ICE enforcement against illegals, and voting rights and driver’s licenses for non-citizens.
Policies that Undermine Law and Order
These same policies have undermined respect for law and order by law-abiding citizens. Recruits for police forces have dwindled, reducing protections for firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Shoplifting gangs from southern cities such as Springfield, Massachusetts and Hartford, Connecticut join fentanyl and crack dealers from hardcore street gangs from Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City to get a quick and easy piece of Green Mountain pie. Profit margins for illegal drugs are higher, police are few and far between, and skin color is a near guarantee of a get-out-of-jail-free card, revolving-door-style: Just Pass Go, and don’t stop for cops, jail, or courts.
But those woodchuck Vermonters are tiring of the destruction of their hometowns and businesses. In a high-profile video-recorded instance at a Home Depot in Rutland last year, a career felony shoplifter was physically assaulted by furious shoppers. The town’s police took a slightly different perspective from the Berlin Police Department’s when asked whether citizens should intervene when they witness crimes: police chief Ed Dumas stated simply, “I have no comment on that.”
Rutland now boasts a sizeable citizen enforcement contingency. The Vermont crime wave extends to every corner of the state: militias may be in order, though Vermont’s progressive carpetbaggers seek to ban all guns and self-defense.
Vigilante Vermonters Aren’t Woke
Vermonters are not Californians, though many liberals from California and New York are relocating here post-COVID, often dragging failed utopian “theories” about criminal law enforcement with them. But the natives are accustomed to long waits for strapped police response, shooting varmints who threaten their cows or chickens — backroad justice or no justice at all. If the government, courts, and police will not protect them, their families, and their businesses, it is no use telling the Green Mountain Boys to stand down and respect such failure.
As former Northfield police chief John Helfant offered in a comment for this article:
If the law isn’t going to protect people then people are going to protect themselves. Criminals should promptly be held accountable by the system or the system is useless. Criminals need to know that there are swift consequences for their actions, like pretrial detention, enforceable curfew conditions, etc. The system worked in the past, and it can work again if the Legislature and the courts would tighten things up.
Shoplifting and crime will continue to increase across America, as borders are flung wide for fentanyl commerce, inflation is fueled by reckless monetary policy, grocery and other stores shut their doors, and clueless social justice agitators counsel violence and theft as historically and racially reparative.
There were few police in the U.S. when Alexis de Tocqueville visited some two centuries ago. There were societal consequences for criminal transgressors, in the vein of armed women and shopkeepers across the wild American West who took quick care of bank robbers and horse thieves.
Prosecutors Advocate for Criminals
In Burlington, opioid overdoses are up dramatically in 2023: 350 so far versus 155 as of the same date last year. Police turn shoplifters loose, uncharged. But the notoriously progressive prosecutor there, Sarah George, claims that the solution is more public services:
People are struggling right now. Our population of people without homes is significantly worse than it has been in the past. People with substance use disorders are significantly worse than we’ve seen in the past. All of those things are major contributors to retail theft[.] … People’s basic needs need to be met. We need to be investing significantly more time and energy into people’s basic needs. People need to be housed and they need substance use treatment on demand. Right now, the drug supply is poisoned beyond anything we’ve ever seen.
This prosecutor excuses her failures by blaming the scourge of drugs that her policies have seeded. Vermont has significantly fewer police than it did “in the past,” absurdly permissive laws to replace the law and order “of the past,” and drug-promotion policies that never existed “in the past.” This is not a chicken-and-egg problem. When prosecutors indulge in personal social experimentation rather than do the basic job they are hired to do, the eggs of crime and violence begin hatching in every corner. With prosecutors like Sarah George, who needs defense attorneys?
The more the rule of law is disrespected and dismantled by progressive dreamers, the more vigilantes will be hailed as heroes for filling the role once occupied by trained officers. Those chanting “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bad) will discover what happens when lynch mobs finally turn on the witch-hunters. It will be either anarchy or true law and order, American style. Progressives in Vermont may soon be praying for uniformed police to come rescue them from the chaos they have coddled and courted.
The author is a Brookfield best-selling author, lawyer, farmer and pastor. Reprinted from the Small Farm Republic website.