By Guy Page
“Priority 1” crimes like arson, assault, overdoses and robbery rose 14.2% in Burlington in 2021, the first full year of the ‘Defund the Police” staff reductions measures, according to a May 20, 2022 report by city analyst Jonathan Larson.
Black people account for a higher percentage of arrests and are more than twice as likely to be arrested for a violent felony, the report said.
The report’s key findings, published below, are excerpted from a statement issued May 24 by Mayor Miro Weinberger:
- Total number of incidents has declined, but Priority 1 incidents increased during 2021: BPD recorded 21,570 incidents in 2021, down 8.5% from 23,584 in 2020. This continues a trend in decreasing incidents, attributable to decreases in traffic stops, reported retail theft, and foot patrols. However, there were 2,081 Priority 1 incidents in 2021, which represents a 14.2% increase from the 1,822 incidents in 2020. Priority 1 incidents are the most urgent types, according to BPD’s Priority Response Plan, and include things like arson, assault, overdose, and robbery.
There were 3,767 crimes recorded in 2021, up 10.2% from 3,418 in 2020. Of the 3,767 crimes in 2021, 382 were violent versus 398 in 2020.
- Overall, arrests are declining, but Black individuals make up a higher percentage of total arrests and are more than twice as likely to be arrested for a violent felony. Arrests have been decreasing since 2016. BPD made 987 arrests in 2021, down 14.0% from 1,148 in 2020. Across race, most arrestees are cited, meaning they are assigned a court date but not detained until that court date. Approximately 4.3% of incidents result in an arrest. Approximately 75.8% of arrestees in 2021 were White and 20.5% were Black.
- Police use of force increased from 2020’s historic low. Black individuals are more likely to be subjects of uses of force, including for non-violent crimes, but are less likely to be injured than white individuals. There were 188 uses of force in 2021, up 17.5% from 160 in 2020. Of the 187 uses of force in 2021 where race was known, 112 (59.9%) were against White people and 68 (36.4%) were against Black people. (For the purpose of this report, use of force includes all law-enforcement actions beyond compliant handcuffing.)
For White subjects of force, the most common type of force is “empty hand controls” (empty hand controls are use of force without a weapon). Black subjects, the most common type is pointing a firearm. About 15.4% of subjects of force are injured; White subjects are more likely to be injured than Black subjects.
Black arrestees for violent crimes have about the same risk of being the subject of force as White arrestees of violent crime. Black arrestees for non-violent crimes are more likely to be the subject of force than White arrestees of non-violent crime.
- As a result of focus and change in departmental policy, overall traffic stops continue to decrease, helping address historical racial disparities: Traffic stops have been decreasing steadily since 2015. In recent years, the Police Department has ceased its use of the lawful but controversial “pretextual stop” for random interdiction. A pretextual stop occurs when an officer pulls over a motorist for a minor traffic or equipment violation and then uses the stop to investigate a more serious crime.
- The number of officer-generated traffic stops has decreased approximately 89%, falling from 6,262 in 2015 to fewer than 700 last year. Across all races, most stops are for moving violations. Officers made 680 traffic stops in 2021; 586 were of White drivers, and 49 were of Black. The proportion of Black drivers stopped (7.3%) is lower than their share of the driving population (10.6%), as estimated by crash data.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.