Survey shows half of Bristol residents favor expanded police district

BRISTOL — The results of a survey distributed by the Bristol Police Advisory Board outside the polls on Election Day indicate that a very slim majority of Bristol voters favor an expansion of the police district to a town-wide police force — just more than 50 percent.
Jim Quaglino, chair of the police advisory board, said that next steps would include the police department and selectboard looking into what the expansion would cost Bristol taxpayers.
“When the facts and figures are completed, public forums will be held to explain what (the costs) would entail,” Quaglino wrote in a press release. “After that process, the results would be brought to the public for a vote.”
Quaglino said the survey had included five questions:
•  Do you live within the current police district?
•  Have you ever called for police services? If yes, did Bristol police or Vermont State Police respond? Were you satisfied with the response?
•  Those who lived outside the current police district were asked, as a yes or no question: “Were you aware, if you needed police service, you would need to call State Police and wait for a Trooper to respond, even if there was a Bristol police officer available?”
•  Are you in favor of a town-wide police department, undecided, or not in favor?
•  Would you be interested in attending meetings about the feasibility and cost of a town-wide police department?
Of the 1,139 voters at Holley Hall on Nov. 6 who opted to fill out the voluntary survey, 576 said they were in favor of expanding the police district; 248 said they were opposed to expansion; and 315 were undecided. The 576 voting in favor represented 50.6 percent of the total number surveyed; 21.8 percent were opposed and 27.7 percent were undecided.
The 576 respondents in favor were split pretty evenly between those who lived inside and outside of the current police district, 280-292, while four respondents in favor did not indicate their place of residence. The 315 undecided respondents were also split down the middle, with 162 hailing from the current district and 150 from the rest of the town, and three unknown.
Of the 248 residents who were opposed to the police district, 158 lived outside of the current police district and 84 lived within it, with six unknown.
Quaglino did not provide the survey respondents answers to the questions about whether they were aware of police coverage and if they were satisfied with the response.
Bristol’s police department was scaled back from four officers to three in 2010 and currently serves a police district that pretty much encompasses the Bristol village. Village residents foot the bill for the Bristol Police Department, which Chief Kevin Gibbs says operates on a slim budget. Bristol residents in the greater town area are under the protection of Vermont State Police; the nearest VSP barracks is in New Haven.
The 2012-2013 Bristol Police Department budget features $343,728 in spending. It was approved at town meeting last March by a tally of 196-189.

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