Communities across our state are grappling with safety concerns we've never experienced before, and the state needs to rethink how we protect our citizens.
Much of the uptick in crime, including gun crime, is a result of the opiate epidemic sweeping through our cities and our villages. Our first priority has to be stemming the tide of that epidemic and getting those struggling with addiction off the streets, into treatment, and back on the path to recovery. And we also must seriously address the higher than average rates of domestic violence and suicide in our state as well. My administration will:
Focus on prevention. Prevention is the best dollar you can spend, which is why the CDC recommends focusing here first. We need better prevention with boots on the ground to stop the spread of heroin from family to family or friend to friend, and we need more prevention programs in schools.
Expand treatment. Nobody who makes a commitment to get clean, or has a moment of clarity and wants to be admitted to treatment, should have to wait to be admitted. We need to have ample treatment capacity to get people access when they need it, and not kick them out before they are ready.
Build a robust alternative justice system that Vermonters across the state can access. The most effective and efficient way to rehabilitate and heal is through a program for nonviolent offenders to enter treatment for the long-term rather than jail, which costs up to $70,000 a year and provides less effective support for addicts. An alternative justice system is the best way to help non-violent addicts get clean and get back on their feet for the long term so they don’t spiral downwards.
Use the most modern law enforcement tactics. We need to coordinate drug sweeps with an influx of capacity for addiction treatment. We must encourage law enforcement to use the disruptive tactics being pioneered in Rutland, like the continuous monitoring of known drug hot spots. And we must end the catch-and-release cycle by increasing bail for drug dealers and those caught trafficking dangerous drugs.
Establish a crisis text system. Sometimes, victims of domestic violence or even those contemplating doing themselves physical harm to themselves have a hard time reaching out for help with a phone call. Studies have shown that giving people the option of texting for help makes it much more likely that some people who need help reach out at all.
Implement universal background checks for gun sales. Every gun purchase, every time should require a criminal background check, and this includes closing the gun show loophole. To be clear, our hunting tradition must remain sacrosanct. But no responsible gun owner or vendor wants to find out a gun they sold was used in an atrocity. We need to build a reliable system to ensure that never happens.
Enforce the straw purchase prohibitions. The straw purchase loophole, where someone buys a gun on behalf of someone else who isn’t qualified, is exploited far too often, and this must stop. There are federal laws against straw purchasing that we must give law enforcement the resources and tools to crack down.
Interested in reading more about our comprehensive plan to take on opiate addiction in Vermont? Click here.