Policing won’t solve community issues

Chris Harrell

SGA recently sent out an email detailing their initiatives to increase student and community safety over the next year.

SGA is unfortunately wrong in their efforts.

For a representative organization of a liberal-minded student body, these initiatives are a betrayal of their most vulnerable peers.

One of their initiatives centers around increased UVM and Burlington Police patrols downtown.

These patrols target public drinking, underage drinking and noise.

Patrols will include walking, biking and driving in addition to a strict noise ordinance, according to the Aug. 29 SGA email.

In their email, SGA refers to “quality of life” policing initiatives.

Quality of life patrols are designed to “lessen disorder” to reduce overall non-desirable behavior, according to a November 2015 Washington Post article.

These patrols involve stopping as many people as possible in order to set a tone of what is and isn’t allowed to occur, according to the article.

Quality of life crime patrols were a signature part of the right wing solution to the crime hysteria of the 1990s and were first coined by Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City.

According to the activist network INCITE!, which is dedicated to ending state violence against vulnerable groups, this approach leads to an increase in arrests and police confrontations in the community.

This is particularly felt in communities of color.

According to recent data from the American Civil Liberties Union, 90% of all people stopped and frisked by the New York Police Department so far in 2019 are people of color.

Similarly, Vermont police stop and search black drivers at four times the rate of white drivers, and Hispanic drivers at three times the rate, according to a January 2017 Seven Days article.

Students are attracted to neighborhoods with lower rental rates, which can also attract Burlington’s growing immigrant community.

For many, college involves drinking and parties, and that’s unlikely to change.

Students will be no safer getting home if they are worried about running into trouble with the law.

All these patrols will do is increase risks that students take when they’re out.

Instead, of encouraging these patrols, SGA should be focused on harm prevention.

Increasing bus service off and around campus would be a more effective use of University resources and increase the safety of our community.

These new patrols are an effort to make the residential neighborhoods more “peaceful” and “safe,” according to the email.

UVM students are a part of these neighborhoods and have an equal interest in the well-being of the community at large. Students should be part of community solutions to these issues.

By introducing these policing measures, UVM students are further alienated from the community and told that rather than being part of the solution, they are the problem.

Encouraging students to reach out to neighbors and pay attention to community concerns and issues is the best way for the conflict at hand to be resolved.

Instead, we create more tension and confrontation in our community by seeking to use a strong police presence to push these issues under the surface.