Reward offered for vandalism arrest

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BENNINGTON — Some Bennington citizens have come together to offer a reward for information that lead to the arrest of the person or people responsible for racist graffiti and vandalism reported in town over the past few days.

In a brief news conference Wednesday afternoon, Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette confirmed that the citizens have donated up to $1,000 to the town of Bennington to be used by the BPD to reward someone who comes forward with information leading to the apprehension and conviction of those responsible for the three recent graffiti incidents.

The first incident occurred sometime between Friday evening and Saturday morning at Oldcastle Theatre, hours before a West African dance troupe performed. The suspect or suspects broke a window and also dripped some sort of red substance to write "white power" on a picnic table outside. The BPD provided an officer that evening to stand outside the theater and ensure the safety of the performers and attendees, however no additional incidents were reported that evening.

On Monday morning, a town employee reported that "white power" had been spray painted in black on the side of the Bennington Recreation Center on Gage Street, police said. The graffiti was painted over by a town employee shortly after.

A third instance of graffiti, also reading "white power" in black spray paint, was reported Tuesday morning on a fence on Gage Street in the area of the Autumn Inn.

Doucette says that although he is not a handwriting expert, "it appears" that the vandalism on the rec center and the fence are connected, however police are unsure if these instances are connected to the Oldcastle vandalism as well.

Each of the incidents is being investigated by the Bennington Police Department; during the time of the press conference, Doucette said two detectives were following up on a lead related to the incidents.

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While anonymous tips help, Doucette encourages people to come forward with information in person.

"There are people in Bennington that know who has done this," he said. "They have committed the act of unlawful mischief. It is a crime."

Doucette expressed his dismay that this graffiti has drawn negative attention to Bennington and incited accusations that Bennington is racist.

"Bennington is not a racist community," he said. "We do have a couple of people that live in our community, no different than any other community in this country, where there are people that are racist and they believe that they have the right to say some of the things that they're saying, and it's hurtful. Unfortunately, we can't arrest people because it is freedom of speech, but with things like this where they actually go out and commit acts of unlawful mischief and vandalism, it is an arrestable offense."

The BPD is working diligently to find the suspect or suspects responsible for the vandalism, Doucette said.

"It's important to us," he said. "We want to put closure to this."

Christie Wisniewski can be reached at cwisniewski@benningtonbanner.com and at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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