Residents say Burlington subsidized apartment building besieged by crime, drugs

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 6:15 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Residents at Decker Towers in Burlington say the residential building is beset by drug traffic and they are concerned for their safety. But the Burlington Housing Authority, which manages the property, says they are limited in what they can do.

Since 1971, Decker Towers, Vermont’s tallest building, has loomed over the Queen city’s skyline. With 11 floors and 161 rooms, the subsidized housing project run by the Burlington Housing Authority is home to people over 55 and those with disabilities. But some residents say it’s no longer the safe space it once was.

“People are threatened here all the time. I have been threatened, I have been robbed. Enough is enough,” said resident Richard Miller.

“It’s been really frightening and scary,” said Jill Marie Corby, another resident. “They have guns, they have knives. Drugs! I’m just going to say it...”

Our cameras captured a needle on a hallway floor and residents sent us photos of more needles and blood stains.

“I can go through this stairway tonight and pick up 10 of them. There are people in there smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, shooting up,” Miller said.

The tenants say drug dealers living in the building have brought in a steady flow of drug users and homeless who sleep in the building’s common areas. That led management to close off the common areas. “The homeless were sleeping on them, so instead of making it harder to get into the building, we are gonna just take away the things from people that live here,” Miller said.

Burlington doesn’t have a Decker Tower problem, Burlington has an opioid problem,” said Steven Murray, director of the Burlington Housing Authority. The independent organization helps people get into subsidized housing. He says he understands residents’ concerns about drugs and other safety issues and he is actively working to evict problem tenants but adds that it’s not an easy process. “The way the system is working right now, it will take me five to 12 months to evict someone, even if I have a preponderance of evidence that they are dealing drugs.

As for people who don’t live in the building, Murray says tenants have the right to invite guests and building staff can’t question or monitor everyone who walks in. He says closing the common areas at night was one step he could take to improve safety. “When you find someone with bloody needles on a sofa, ok, I don’t have a lot of options as a landlord,” Murray said.

Concerned residents say they hope more will be done to clean up the building. Until then, they have a warning for anyone who might be seeking housing. “Don’t move here, please. If you are homeless, find somewhere else to go. This is not a safe building at this time,” said Marie Corby said.

To help deter crime, the Burlington Housing Authority says it has added over $120,000 worth of surveillance cameras to all of its properties and more lights will be added.

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