Our view: Look to each other for safety

Back in January, the Arlington community was shocked to learn that one of its own, Helen Jones, 81, had been stabbed to death in her own home. Following the news came weeks of apprehension and uncertainty. It wasn't until March that an arrest was made in connection with the killing.

Timothy J. Butler, 31, of Sunderland, has pleaded not guilty in Bennington County criminal court to murder and burglary charges. It may be another year, at least, before the case resolves.

On Thursday, state police and local prosecutors met with folks who showed up at the Federated Church of East Arlington to talk about crime in the Arlington community. It was a fairly short meeting, over within an hour, with the takeaway message being that while you're safe in Arlington, it's best to lock your doors.

Police cited statistics showing that crime rates haven't changed much in the area since 2000. Violent crime is down across the country, and Vermont consistently shows up on at the top lists showcasing safe, healthy places to live. Still, we tend to view the past through rose-tinted glasses and the future with an eye towards uncertainty and suspicion.

And why shouldn't we? Most of us now own a device, be it a home computer or a smartphone, that gives us up-to-the-minute notice of seemingly every horror the world has to offer. Terrorist attacks, North Korean missiles, heroin overdoses, school shootings, robberies, car crashes, murders — it's all there, constantly. Many become numb to it all, until it hits close to home.

That you should feel safe, but still take precautions, is perfect advice for those living in rural Vermont.

Serious crime is rare, here, as evidenced by the shock it causes when it happens. While there's nothing we can do to make us crime-proof, in the end our best defense is each other. Rural isolation is not an insulation against crime. In fact, criminals often pick their targets because there's a dearth of prying eyes around and a general sense of, "Crime doesn't happen here."

Those in the Arlington community have been proactive, talking to each other, with police, and holding meetings such as these. Something similar occurred in Dorset a few years ago in response to a rash of burglaries. Residents got together, reached out to police, and began a neighborhood watch. In Bennington, not so long ago, a series of armed robberies prompted locals to do something similar, meeting with police and working with the town so that we might all better watch each other's backs.

In reality, we're safer than most, and we'll stay that way provided we keep coming together, knowing our neighbors, and keeping an eye out.


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