Bennington home vandalized, owner says

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BENNINGTON — A home on North Bennington Road near College Drive was vandalized this month by two adolescents, according to the property owner, and local police are investigating the matter.

Two minors have been issued citations to appear in Bennington Superior Court, Family Division for offenses related to "several incidents including burglaries and vandalism," according to Bennington Police Department Chief Paul Doucette, who said in an email Monday that he was "unable to release further information at this time as the offenders are juveniles."

Steve Carver, who lives in New Mexico but says he has visited his property at 1005 North Bennington Road at least monthly since purchasing it in October 2018, contacted local police after receiving a notification the night of Sept. 5 that his security cameras had gone offline.

Carver said Bennington Police Officer Michael Pierce later told him that his home had been broken into and was not in good shape. Photographs shared with The Banner by Carver — subsequently corroborated by a site visit facilitated by a neighbor with Carver's consent — show profane graffiti on the walls of multiple rooms in the house. Stuffing from the living room sofa, also marked with graffiti, had been removed.

Police found two girls — The Banner has not confirmed their ages — in a detached barn on the same property, Carver said. The barn appears to have served as shelter for the girls. When The Banner visited on Sept. 12, a mattress — which Carver says the girls took from his house — lay on the floor of the barn, which was strewn with food, clothes and other items. The walls of the structure bore graffiti.

Police found items stolen from two other homes with the girls inside the barn, Carver said. A person believed to be the owner of one of those homes did not return a voicemail.

Carver said the girls had run away from the Vermont School for Girls, a residential treatment center for girls and women aged 11 to 20, located at 192 Fairview St.

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The security camera company told Carver that the girls had pulled out wires connected to the cameras, which were destroyed, he said.

Nearly a week after the first incident, on Sept. 11, the girls returned to the North Bennington Road home and unsuccessfully attempted to enter it, according to Carver, who said police again found the girls in the barn on the property.

Carver believes Bennington residents should know about the incidents, which have made him feel angry and upset. The homeowner is seeking reimbursement for the damage from his insurance company, but it remains unclear if the effort will be successful.

Laurae Coburn, vice president of the Vermont Permanency Initiative, a nonprofit that owns and operates the Vermont School for Girls, toured Carver's home Monday and has told him that the organization wants to make things right, he said.

In an email on Monday, Coburn wrote, "It is our understanding that the matter at 1005 North Bennington Road is under investigation at this time," and referred The Banner to local police "for any information that is available to the public."

Coburn added that "protecting the privacy of the children and adolescents that we treat is a part of our legal obligations to them under both federal and state laws."

Asked in a subsequent email if the Vermont Permanency Initiative would be making any kind of monetary or in-kind contribution to Carver, Coburn did not directly answer the question but said that "VPI cares very much about our relationship with our community," adding that it has "always strived to be a good neighbor, and will continue to do so."

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