Tenants complain Burlington apartment building is plagued by drugs, crime

Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Residents of a subsidized housing building in Burlington say they’re sick of the drugs and crime there. Thursday, they vented their frustrations at a meeting with local leaders and Burlington’s police chief.

Residents of Decker Towers met with Burlington Housing Authority management and Burlington police, voicing concerns about drug use and drug dealing in the apartment complex that has them feeling unsafe.

“I see drug deals happening in the parking lot. I see them at the side door. I see them all around the building,” said James Harvey, a resident.

“The drug dealers, the people that steal all these goods, they know that Decker Towers is open for business,” resident David Foss said.

Residents have sent photos of needles scattered inside and outside the property, as well as bodily fluids and people sleeping in the stairway.

As when we first reported on these issues five months ago, Steven Murray, the director of the Burlington Housing Authority, points to a bigger issue of drugs in the city.

“It’s not just Decker Towers, it’s just about every major apartment building in town,” Murray said.

Murray says that BHA is working to evict problem tenants in the 161-unit building, it just takes evidence and the eviction process takes time.

Right now, he says 17 people have been issued a notice to vacate and they have served eviction papers to six people they suspect of dealing drugs on the property.

“It’s a political problem now. It’s not BHA is a bad landlord, it’s the politics are not addressing the scourge of drug dealing,” Murray said.

Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad was also at the meeting. He says he is aware of the issues of substance abuse and homelessness at Decker Towers.

“They are things that are plaguing us all as a city. We are in a place that it feels like we haven’t been, at least not in recent memory,” Murad said.

The chief says despite the complaints on Thursday, the number of reports police have received about criminal activity at Decker Towers this year is down. He encourages residents to contact the police when they see drug dealing and other crimes being committed. But he says with current staffing levels, there’s no guarantee officers will respond when they follow the priority response plan.

“If I have four officers on shift, then we are answering every single call that comes in until I only have two left. And at that point, we only answer the priority ones,” Murad said.

Moving forward, Murray says he is doing everything he can to make the residents safe. That could include new security measures such as requiring new key cards to enter the building and not being able to buzz people in from their rooms.

“Our only goal right now-- and I’m sorry to my community partners-- is to make it more difficult to deal drugs here than at other properties,” Murray said.

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