Letter to the editor: Middlebury’s downtown businesses are under siege
As a landlord of a downtown building and a resident within walking distance to Main Street, I am writing this letter to those of you who care about the survival of our downtown but perhaps don’t use it on a day by day or week-to-week basis. Our downtown businesses are under siege. Over the course of the last six months our local business owners have not only had to deal with what Mother Nature has sent their way but have also had to contend with harassing crime.
For those of you who are unaware of the incidents happening on almost a weekly basis here are a few:
The Dyer building that houses Taste of India, Parlour and Autumn Gold was vandalized two nights in a row by an individual repeatedly cutting power to the building. He broke into and destroyed the door of Taste of India and tried to break through the front window of Autumn Gold.
The Town Hall Theater has had a restraining order on an individual who continues to harass and threaten members of their staff.
The Vermont Bookshop had two shots fired through its front door.
Plantings and planters were destroyed and spread all over the sidewalk in front of the Edgewater Gallery on the Green. Additional plantings were pulled out, destroyed and left on the sidewalk at Buy Again Alley.
Employees at Haymaker Buns have been harassed. Their front door destroyed and rocks thrown at cars in their parking lot.
Someone got into the Stone Mill and stole their cash drawer. Two nights later, their front door was smashed beyond repair. Then their side window was broken. And after that, two of the Stone Mill’s overnight guests had their car windows destroyed while they slept.
Front door to Mad Taco was smashed.
Employees at Two Brothers Tavern had their cars severely vandalized while working a shift.
Rice was burglarized.
The owner of the Giving Fridge has been harassed and threatened while walking to her business. Her store has been vandalized and her business burglarized.
Employees and customers of Mister Ups have been harassed. Their building has been vandalized and broken into; windows smashed and deck features destroyed.
Cars in the parking lot by Mister Ups have been vandalized.
These crimes have been perpetrated by multiple individuals. The police are aware of them all but are powerless in holding the individuals accountable. Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos stated in her interview in this newspaper before the state’s attorney election that she would not prosecute non-violent crimes. Well, Eva, this is what we get when there are no repercussions to illegal behavior. We get a Main Street with many business owners wondering how they are going to survive and many business workers fearing for their safety. Why are we waiting for one of these crimes to become violent?
Something needs to be done or our storefronts will empty and a vital piece of this community will be lost. The move to a social service response to crime only works if the systems are in place to provide the social services that an individual offender needs. Without those systems being streamlined with the judicial process, you end up with a community that feels like there is no law and order. When community safety is at risk, the system has failed as has the first purpose of government.
I’m not proposing that the answers are simple but I think nothing will change if my fellow citizens are not aware of the magnitude of the distress our local business owners are feeling. There is a problem in your back yard, and it’s on our main streets. Talk to local business owners, speak to Karen Duguay who leads the Better Middlebury Partnership, ask a police officer about the challenges downtown and come see for yourself.
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