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Who will handle COVID-19 complaints about UVM students?

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 2:12 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2020 at 8:22 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The University of Vermont is working on solidifying a plan on handling noise and party complaints this year.

Just about a week before students return to campus, university officials, the Burlington Police, and Mayor Miro Weinberger joined in on a panel discussion on Wednesday night to go over enforcement plans for this upcoming school year.

Wendy Koenig of the Office of University Relations says UVM staff have received several calls in the past few weeks about parties on and near campus. She says the callers don’t always provide adequate information.

“We don’t get an address, we don’t get a date, we don’t get the time and we don’t get someone who is willing to talk to us more about what the issue is,” she said.

Koenig says another issue is UVM staffers don’t have the legal right to go onto private property to break up a party. They also can’t issue tickets. So, she recommends people report to the Burlington Police Department.

Some people, including Chittenden County Sen. Chris Pearson, questioned whether that responsibility should fall on the city police’s shoulders.

“For something like this, first of all, I don’t really want Burlington law enforcement deviating from domestic violence, other issues that are more huge,” he said. “It seems like the first order of business should be to call UVM and you guys quickly lookup if students live there and engage that way. I’m uncomfortable with the idea that you’re second or third on the list.”

Burlington Police Lt, Jason Lawson says officers will respond to noise calls but they can’t always guarantee how quickly they can get there.

“There’s a lot of things that we have to prioritize as the calls are coming in,” Lawson said. “And even as we’re responding to the quality of life complaints, a simple call on the radio can change on our way.”

Lawson says Burlington Police will continue working with the university to provide these services.

Koenig also says if Burlington Police are unable to take a call, they can hand it over to UVM Police and ask them to respond, since UVM Police are sworn officers. She also says neighborhood patrols will be out and about within the next few weeks.

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