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Burlington Police address ‘emergency tier system’ amid week of violence

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 6:38 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Several late-night violent incidents at Leddy Park and Church Street this week had the Burlington Police scrambling to respond. It comes as the department continues to adjust to defunding last year that some downtown business owners and residents say has left the city exposed at critical hours.

Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad Thursday explained they respond to three different priority levels of calls -- tier one, two, and three -- with tier one being the most serious. He says all of the incidents they responded to at Leddy Park this week fall into the category requiring a larger response and that other calls during that period didn’t get as prompt a response. “We’re frankly finding ourselves overstretched,” Murad said. “In regard to the priorities, priority three incidents won’t get a response until we can free up resources.”

Murad says this is a direct result of the Burlington City Council’s decision last year to downsize the department. “We have 67 officers who can be deployed right now. Of those, eight are permanently assigned to the airport. We have supervisors and we also have detectives,” he said. “What that leaves us with in regards to patrols, is somewhere in the low 30s.” Murad says prior to the department downsizing, that number was closer to 50.

While the number of crimes committed at Leddy Park from June 1st to July 15th, from 2017 to 2021, overall have gone down, Murad says the violent cases, that require more resources, have been steady across the city. In the case of the incidents at Leddy Park this week, Murad says all six officers on duty responded to the stabbing that took place Tuesday. Several had to be reassigned after two other assaults were reported. “They had to break officers away from that very important scene, dealing with a stabbing, dealing with evidence collection, dealing with witness interviews...and had to move them toward another assault,” Murad said.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger was unavailable to speak to us Thursday about the incidents, but sent a statement saying, in part: “While I am concerned about the acute pressures facing the Burlington Police Department this summer, I am confident that our officers are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of all our neighbors and visitors in Burlington.”

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