New safety escort program aims to provide additional security in downtown Burlington


A new service is launching in downtown Burlington to provide additional security for anyone who feels unsafe. The “Safety Escort Program” will be available Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. starting next week.Employees or visitors can call or text a phone number and someone will arrive in 15 minutes to escort them to their car, hotel or home. The purpose of the program is to make people feel safe and comfortable given recent incidents in the downtown area.Kristin Halvorson of Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe knows first-hand how important a program like this is.“A man was loitering and I asked him to leave. And he just turned totally violent,” Halvorson said.Last week, Halvorson found herself in a dangerous position when she asked someone outside the restaurant to leave. She considers herself lucky.“It was a nice good Samaritan who came and tried to de-escalate the situation,” Halvorson said.The good Samaritan was attacked with a hammer. Halvorson was able to get to her car safely.“I called for police and I wasn’t sure they were gonna come because I know they’re really busy, they’re understaffed,” Halvorson said.Ten days later, the front window at the restaurant was smashed in the early hours of the morning.“Nothing was stolen, it was just an act of vandalism. So again it was late at night. So it would be nice just to have some other bodies on the street, the more the merrier,” Halvorson said.The Burlington Businesses Association organized the Safety Escort Program to increase the security presence downtown. “These women, these workers who generally tend to be younger people, as well as everyone in our community, has a right to come downtown and feel comfortable,” said Kelly Devine, president of the BBA.Devine said the need for this program is a result of Burlington City Council’s vote to cut the Burlington police staff by 30{8a924211cc822977802140fcd9ee67aa8e3c0868cac8d22acbf0be98ed6534bd} in June 2020.“When the police force was cut, it was done without any other plan in place to replace those services. When you take away a resource with nothing to replace it, it’s going to leave a void and that’s exactly what happened,” Devine said.The Burlington Police Department will provide an escort service to anyone who calls, but Deputy Chief Wade Labrecque acknowledged how the new program could be useful. “Since it’s dedicated to just that, it certainly would be, if it was a busy night or something like that, they would be much more easily and readily available,” Labrecque said.The City is making transformative investments in public safety to meet the needs of the community. However, in a statement, Mayor Miro Weinberger said in part, “I continue to be concerned as we navigate the weeks and months ahead with significantly restrained resources at the BPD while those new programs are underway. The City is taking several steps to answer this short-term problem, and I welcome this step by the BBA.” Church street business owners, like Mark Bouchett, fully support the program. “Anything that we, the BBA, the city, can provide to take care of the security, safety, well-being, mental well-being, you don’t want to be afraid going out either, these are all to the plus from our perspective,” said Mark Bouchett, co-owner of Homeport.When the program launches, it will be staffed by trained professionals. Devine says she is currently in contact with two organizations, both of which already provide security services downtown. Therefore, the safety escorts will understand what it’s like to provide security services downtown and will have training in de-escalation measures.

A new service is launching in downtown Burlington to provide additional security for anyone who feels unsafe. The “Safety Escort Program” will be available Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. starting next week.

Employees or visitors can call or text a phone number and someone will arrive in 15 minutes to escort them to their car, hotel or home. The purpose of the program is to make people feel safe and comfortable given recent incidents in the downtown area.

Kristin Halvorson of Halvorson’s Upstreet Cafe knows first-hand how important a program like this is.

“A man was loitering and I asked him to leave. And he just turned totally violent,” Halvorson said.

Last week, Halvorson found herself in a dangerous position when she asked someone outside the restaurant to leave. She considers herself lucky.

“It was a nice good Samaritan who came and tried to de-escalate the situation,” Halvorson said.

The good Samaritan was attacked with a hammer. Halvorson was able to get to her car safely.

“I called for police and I wasn’t sure they were gonna come because I know they’re really busy, they’re understaffed,” Halvorson said.

Ten days later, the front window at the restaurant was smashed in the early hours of the morning.

“Nothing was stolen, it was just an act of vandalism. So again it was late at night. So it would be nice just to have some other bodies on the street, the more the merrier,” Halvorson said.

The Burlington Businesses Association organized the Safety Escort Program to increase the security presence downtown.

“These women, these workers who generally tend to be younger people, as well as everyone in our community, has a right to come downtown and feel comfortable,” said Kelly Devine, president of the BBA.

Devine said the need for this program is a result of Burlington City Council’s vote to cut the Burlington police staff by 30{8a924211cc822977802140fcd9ee67aa8e3c0868cac8d22acbf0be98ed6534bd} in June 2020.

“When the police force was cut, it was done without any other plan in place to replace those services. When you take away a resource with nothing to replace it, it’s going to leave a void and that’s exactly what happened,” Devine said.

The Burlington Police Department will provide an escort service to anyone who calls, but Deputy Chief Wade Labrecque acknowledged how the new program could be useful.

“Since it’s dedicated to just that, it certainly would be, if it was a busy night or something like that, they would be much more easily and readily available,” Labrecque said.

The City is making transformative investments in public safety to meet the needs of the community. However, in a statement, Mayor Miro Weinberger said in part, “I continue to be concerned as we navigate the weeks and months ahead with significantly restrained resources at the BPD while those new programs are underway. The City is taking several steps to answer this short-term problem, and I welcome this step by the BBA.”

Church street business owners, like Mark Bouchett, fully support the program.

“Anything that we, the BBA, the city, can provide to take care of the security, safety, well-being, mental well-being, you don’t want to be afraid going out either, these are all to the plus from our perspective,” said Mark Bouchett, co-owner of Homeport.

When the program launches, it will be staffed by trained professionals. Devine says she is currently in contact with two organizations, both of which already provide security services downtown. Therefore, the safety escorts will understand what it’s like to provide security services downtown and will have training in de-escalation measures.



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