Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
Just over one year ago, the Burlington City Council passed a budget that cut the city’s police officer force by 30 percent across the board. This came on the heels of protests calling for the “defunding of the police” across the country.
How is that playing out now?
Well, from July of 2019 through June of 2020, there were 308 cases of assault. In just a year since the budget cuts, assault cases are up by 16 percent. Property crimes are on the rise too. And we’re seeing the number of shootings increase as well.
This isn’t just a blip on the radar. It has gotten so bad that L.L. Bean’s National Headquarters decided to move their Burlington location out of downtown and into Williston. One of the reasons cited was that the Burlington store had become the #1 store in the country for theft – organized theft.
Is this what the pro-defund the police crowd was hoping to achieve? Do the residents of Burlington feel safer today than they were a year ago?
In fact, now the Burlington Police Department is desperate for more staff. They’re asking for eight additional officers to help respond to the rise in “emergency situations.” Earlier this week the Progressive City Council denied that request, despite the alarming rise in crime. But fear not: the budget for mental health workers increased by $400,000. Do you feel safer?
In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that businesses in Burlington have had to fund a non-governmental “safety escort program” to secure workers leaving their jobs.
So, to be clear, the rise in violent activities following the sharp cuts in police budgets has led to a need for greater privately-funded security. Is this really what the “defund the police” crowd had in mind? These progressive policies have led to an almost libertarian form of governing where police powers, which used to be a government monopoly, are now being privatized.
This is precisely what happens when failed liberal policies come to fruition. We’re all left to deal with the unintended consequences — which, in this case, are dire.
Sooner or later, the Burlington City Council will be forced to reverse course and add additional officers to their police force. In the interim, we can’t allow this to happen in other cities and towns across Vermont. It’s up to us to point out that defunding the police has been a failed experiment; one that cannot and should not be replicated in other Vermont communities. Mental health crisis workers cannot respond to shootings — nor should we expect them to.
It is up to us to make sure that this problem does not spread to other communities. Otherwise, before we know it, it will be too late.