Burlington requests more help from state police to patrol city streets

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After a summer that saw increased violent crime in Burlington, city leaders want more help from the Vermont State Police.

The city has signed a 30-day contract with the state police to help fill empty shifts.

Folks I spoke with downtown on Friday think it’s a good idea.

“I think it will save lives. I mean, it’s a ghastly thing for anyone to have to do,” said Wally, a Burlington resident who supports using state police to patrol Burlington’s streets. “Because they’ve never had to beg the Vermont State Police to come in and do the job that they were already doing before.”

Since the City Council elected to cut the number of sworn officers in 2020, the department has continued to hemorrhage officers.

Now, the city is requesting state police to have a visible presence in Burlington’s downtown on Wednesdays through early Sunday mornings. Each shift will be four hours and have up to four troopers.

In a statement, Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, says it’s clear, despite all the public safety steps they’ve taken, they need more help until the situation improves. In a statement, he said: “We will continue to relentlessly deploy new resources, seek new partnerships, and pursue new strategies until we restore the level of public safety and low rate of violent crime that Burlingtonians have long known and enjoyed.”

Burlington Acting Police Chief Jon Murad requested just over $69,000 from the existing police budget to pay VSP, but there’s no guarantee those shifts will all be filled. The shifts are purely on a volunteer basis.

Despite that, local business owners say it’s welcome news.

“It’s a good thing, you know it makes us feel safe, also for the business perspective, people coming in our city to shop and enjoy themselves, I don’t see why not. We need more presence,” business owner Stephen Le said.

“In fact, I hear a lot of people be very concerned to come downtown and see performances at the Flynn or coming down to eat at different restaurants. A lot of the businesses are concerned about patrons not wanting to visit their establishments,” said Renee Lizotte, who works downtown.

In a letter to the board of finance, Murad writes that prior to the slashing of the police force, there would be 10 to 12 uniformed officers on foot patrolling Burlington’s downtown near Church and Main streets on a weekend night. Now, there’s only ever a maximum of two officers with a maximum of two community support officers or unarmed police employees.

While all we spoke to on Friday agree that extra sets of eyes and ears are beneficial, some still feel safe already.

“I’m already feeling like very safe, even if we don’t get more police, I still feel safe in here,” said Shaya Abdullahi of Burlington.

Again, there’s no guarantee that VSP will have a presence since it’s strictly on a volunteer basis, but those we spoke to in Burlington hope some troopers answer the call.

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