Burlington renews trooper contract to protect downtown
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - As Burlington Police continue to search for leads in a fatal stabbing downtown -- the fifth murder this year -- the Queen City says it will continue to rely on Vermont State troopers to bolster local police coverage over the holidays.
The contract between the city of Burlington and the Vermont State Police was made official in early October, but since then the numbers show only 26% of shifts available to state troopers in the city have been filled.
According to the VSP, since the beginning of the contract, they have been offered a total of 62 shifts downtown, but they say only 16 have been filled by a total of nine troopers.
Burlington Police Acting Chief Jon Murad says the city renewed the contract with state police Wednesday for December, offering shifts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The shifts are offered on a strictly volunteer basis and troopers can sign up to take them.
Murad says he hopes more troopers will sign up because their presence helps people feel safe downtown. “I think it does help in the sense of deterrence. I think that it can help in the sense of intervention when something starts to begin as a crime. And I know that it helps in regard to how people perceive safety around them,” he said.
VSP officials say one reason few troopers are taking the Burlington work is that many don’t live in the area and that the force has staffing challenges of its own, with many troopers are already working overtime.
Murad says the VSP will be a valuable resource while he works to rebuild the department after budget cuts approved by the City Council. The current headcount is 62 officers with only 54 available to respond to calls.
POLICE: FATAL STABBING INVOLVED TWO GROUPS FIGHTING
Meanwhile, Burlington Police say there are still no suspects following a fatal stabbing Saturday night.
Authorities now say there were two groups who got into a fight before someone pulled a knife. It happened just after 3 a.m. at Piesano’s restaurant on Main Street. Police say Abubakar Shariff, 23, was stabbed. Despite life-saving attempts, he died at the hospital.
Murad says police are still conducting interviews with witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage from inside the restaurant as well as city-owned cameras to identify those involved. “To be colloquial about it, this is bar closing beer muscles, and two groups of people who got in a fight, and that fight had horrible, outsized implications once a weapon was used,” Murad said.
Those who knew Shariff put together a makeshift memorial with a poster and candles outside of the restaurant.
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