Police and local businesses weigh in after night of crime in Burlington

Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 11:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 15, 2021 at 8:52 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - How safe is Burlington after a night of several crimes occurring within blocks of each other? WCAX News asked police what is being done and local businesses about how it may be impacting everyday operations.

Tuesday night, Burlington Police responded to a series of 911 calls including a possible stabbing near an encampment in Leddy Park.

They say the man behind one of the crimes is Dujuan Williams, 26, who was arrested for an assault on Church Street and appeared in court Wednesday. He is currently being held without bail. Police say Williams has a history with police, reportedly being involved in over 30 incidents since January 2021.

“How far does it need to go?” asked Zachary Ward, the manager of Ruben James, a sports bar on Main Street in Burlington.

Ward wants more to be done to help businesses deal with problems when arguments between patrons turn violent.

“Cops showed up, they put him in cuffs, talked to him, next thing I know he’s walking across the street, threw his citation in the trash and he was free,” Ward said.

Tuesday was a busy night for the police. Several assaults, a stabbing and overdoses had officers working across the city.

While total incident volume is down compared to years past. Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad says high priority calls like violent crimes remain steady.

“We are getting more stretched with regard to our resources, but seeing a greater volume of priority one incidents that require a lot of resources to address,” Murad said.

Ward says the man who caused problems at his bar is the same one who was charged with assault on Tuesday. Williams is accused of harassing a woman leaving her job and then hitting an intervening bystander with a hammer.

Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association says she’s heard about the concerns from Burlington businesses about safety at night, especially for women.

“Women who work in Burlington and have to leave late at night don’t feel safe,” Devine said.

Chief Murad says Burlington is still a safe place to be but addressing those accused of crimes continues to be a challenge.

“Our system doesn’t have a lot of capacity to deal with individuals who have strong mental health care needs. We need a custodial capacity for people who have mental health care situations that require them to be placed in situations that keep other people safe and themselves as well,” he said.

Regardless, Church Street businesses like Ruben James are beginning to wonder if they need to start operating with caution.

“Do I have to put a bouncer every day, you know, from open to close? Is that what it comes down to? With a labor shortage that’s pretty tough,” said Ward.

Murad says the answer to these kinds of problems is not handcuffs alone.

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