Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad has warned of an uptick in the most serious types of crimes that police deal with, yet the force is struggling to keep up with the activity, with just 23 officers available to patrol the city.
Speaking at last week’s monthly meeting of the Burlington Police Commission, Murad told colleagues that staffing shortages continue to take a toll on Burlington Police Department’s ability to protect residents — even with “priority 1” offenses.
“[Priority 1 offenses] are higher than they have ever been in the past six years,” Murad told commissioners. “And that is significant, certainly significant for our deployments because these are the real calls … that require the most resources and often the most time.”
Murad said while the department has 65 officers in total, the number available to patrol the rest of the city currently stands at about 23, due to other commitments — for example, a presence at the airport and special detective work, among other requirements.
In June 2020, the Burlington City Council voted to cut the police force by 30% through attrition. It was at this point that more serious crimes began to occur more frequently.
“One extremely troubling trend has been gunfire,” Murad said. “Since our last meeting, there have been five gunfire incidents — that brings the total for this year up to 10. Since 2012 there have been 51 of such of those incidents, and 36 of them have occurred in the last three years since 2020.”
The chief warned that these numbers indicate a concerning trend.
“These gunfire incident numbers are small, but by percentage, they are concerning with regard to their relative increase over previous years, and also by percentage the racial representations in them are stark,” he said.
Murad said many of these gun incidents include people of color; black individuals comprise about 80 percent of the victims and 60 percent of the suspects. Mayor Miro Weinberger talked about work being done on this matter in a press release regarding the department’s Annual Report.
“I will continue working with Chief Murad and the BPD leadership to make sure that all uses of force against Black individuals are reviewed when they happen, and continue meeting monthly with the Police Commission to examine the causes of these disparities and identify actions the City and BPD can take to address them in a meaningful way,” the mayor said in the statement.
The vast majority of gun incidents are taking place during the late-night hours, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Murad said that this late-night activity makes the staffing shortages more challenging, such as with a gunfire incident involving multiple parties that occurred at 4 a.m. in City Hall Park.
Other standout statistics from the chief’s report include mental health issues have increased significantly, with 382 incidents as of May 22 compared with 332 last year. In 2020 there were 363 incidents, compared to 300 by this point in years prior.
Also, larceny is up — 330 incidents as of May 22 compared with 282 by this point last year. Aggravated assaults are up, with 31 incidents so far compared to between 15 and 20.
Commissioner Melo Grant, of Ward 3, asked the chief how many of those involved in the gun incidents were from out of state. Murad answered that about 50 percent of police interactions involve those from the city, and another 30 percent are from elsewhere in the state. The remaining 20 percent may be out of state. He noted these stats were not specific to gun crimes, however.
“Certainly there have been some prominent gunfire incidents that have involved people who are not from Burlington, but there have been many others where the people have been from Burlington,” he said.
Grant emphasized that she thinks it’s important to track where the suspects are from.
“I’m sure we’ve all read about the situation down in Springfield and in other areas. This is unfortunately a trend that is through the state of Vermont and national,” she said. “So I want us to be very careful, and I think it’s worth it looking at numbers.”
Grant said that the city’s drug habits are largely supported by those from outside the city.
“There is a thirst in this area for a certain product and it is being satiated from people coming in from out of state,” she said.
While the department has been approved to hire more officers, it’s been difficult to find them. Murad said he is “working to build other capacities as we’ve talked about,” including community service officers and liaisons. These are special limited officers who handle more non-violence scenarios. The city currently uses seven community service officers and three community service liaisons.
“It’s great to have them available for a variety of different calls,” the chief said.
Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.
4 thoughts on “Just 23 officers available for patrolling most of Burlington”
Sadly, I find this issue so humorous. The city reduces its police force, and the crime increases. They coddle people of color and now there is a disproportionate amount of violent crime being perpetrated by blacks. And without a doubt the city will continue to claim their dwindling police force is racial profiling.
They wanted it. They got it.
Honestly, if a meteor nailed Burlington and decimated the place, I wouldn’t shed a tear. Eff ’em.
So I’m guessing as most shootings are being done by blacks that getting rid of
cops because of the st. floyd of fentanayl fiasco wasn’t such a great idea..perhaps
we shouldn’t be judging them on skin color but by profession, drug dealer bad
criminal bad, mental problem bad… stop putting quotas on how many of a certain
color can be arrested and maybe arrest all the fore stated group.
Hey Burlington, this is what you get from your Gaggle of fools you call your city council,
these liberals promote defunding the police……….. this is what you get !!
Your Mayor is no better, I thought your Mayor was supposed to be a ” Leader ” apparently
you got the short end of that stick, but you have ” pretty ” bike lanes…… fools in charge.
The property owners should stop paying in there taxes, as they apparently are not getting
their monies worth, when it comes to security and protection from crime, wake up people !!
The Cheif should put out his proposal again for the headcount needed to protect the city,
and if the city’s ” gaggle of fools ” rejects it, then the entire police force should walk !!
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