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FPF Crime Fighters Inspire Legal Action

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On September 3, I reported that Burlington residents were using the neighborhood email newsletter service Front Porch Forum -- including, in one high-profile case, posting a picture taken with a cellphone camera -- to help local police officers investigate a string of graffiti incidents in Burlington.

Now, after more than 60 charges were filed in two separate cases, one is in "pre-trail process," according to a recent FPF post by BPD officer Mike Hemond. Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan is prosecuting the case. "Considering the workload over there," Hemond writes, "that’s no small thing."

Reached by phone this afternoon, BPD chief Michael Schirling said a 7-member advisory board is meeting on October 28 as part of a "strategic planning initiative" to reassess the department's self-described "community policing" protocols. Schirling, who formed the board partly in response to a summertime public forum in the Old North End, predicts there will be a kick-off event in early November.

One of the advisory board's tasks, Schirling said, is assessing how BPD and local citizens might collaborate on video surveillance projects. In the last two months, he explained, the department has loaned two video cameras to citizens interested in documenting alleged noise violations and drug-dealing in their neighborhoods. "It's not really a program," Schirling said. "Some folks have asked, so we've tried it out in a couple of cases, but it's not something we've embraced as a 'thing' yet."

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