A month ago, 17-year old Carly Ferro of Rutland was struck and killed by a driver allegedly high on aerosol fumes.
That drove anger over Rutland’s escalating addiction problems and drug crime to a boiling point.
Thursday night at a community forum, Rutland’s police chief, mayor and a host of other local leaders met with more than 150 residents to map out a strategy to fight back.
They came from all over the city – some from outlying towns. Many in the crowd said they wanted to help police but weren’t sure how. Bob Pearo brought up a common concern that when people do call in with tips, not much happens.
"What I want people to realize, especially law enforcement is I think the majority of us would absolutely love to be more proactive and do what we can it just needs to be easier," Pearo said. "I mean if we call you we need to know our voices will be heard."
Rutland City Police Chief Jim Baker said the department doesn’t currently have anyone to gather and process all the information that comes in and too often, he admitted it’s wasted.
But thanks to a $50,000 grant from the department of corrections, he said they plan to hire a full time data analyst by the first of the year.
"This analyst will be responsible for pulling this info together and creating the mapping programs that tell us where the top 25 – top 30 what’s the location of where we’re being called to service and we’ll start dictating our resources to those locations," Baker said.
Baker said they also want to reinstate a member of the Vermont National Guard on a part time basis to assist with that information gathering. The Police Chief told the crowd he’d reestablish downtown foot patrols, continue high profile road checks, communicate more closely with other law enforcement agencies, corrections officials and the state’s attorney’s office.
"Where people can get involved is back in their neighborhoods," Baker said.
Baker encouraged local residents to join Rutland United Neighborhoods a community building organization he said the police promise to work closely with.
"We’re going to do it by assigning a sergeant to each neighborhood as your point of contact. And if I get phone calls that say things aren’t getting done, I’ll know who to look for."
When some in the crowd complained about vacant buildings, Rutland Mayor Chris Louras outlined his plans to reorganize the city building inspection department and add another staff person.
The crowd stayed for more than two hours. Rutland resident Laurie Davis says seeing the commitment from so many in the city was powerful.
"We need this – we need to come together as a community – my son is a senior at Rutland and he went to school with the girl that was killed and so it kind of hit hard at home and I think this meeting was actually a long time coming and we really needed this as a community," Davis said.
Davis says she liked what she heard and looks forward to seeing the plan put in action.