This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Recently the city of Burlington experienced its 4th homicide this year, which makes for a 30-year record of 18 homicides in Vermont for the year, which is a new record going back 30 years, and is 50% higher than the 10-year average.
In Burlington specifically, where the Progressive-Democrat City Council voted to defund the police two years ago, they have now seen 25 gun-related incidents — which not only breaks the record that was set just last year, it breaks it by more than double. With four homicides among 44,000 people, that puts Burlington not too far behind Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on a per capita basis.
What is especially alarming to me is that the primary suspect in the two homicides that occurred in Burlington and South Burlington this past week was also a suspect in another gun-related incident that took place in City Hall Park. If police had the resources and coverage for that first shooting, could this second shooting have been prevented?
Democrats have taken a soft-on-crime approach that they will try to advance even further if re-elected in November. This past year we saw them try to remove qualified immunity protections that our policemen and their families rely on to protect them. With Republican opposition it got reduced to a study — but Democrats plan to bring it back. We also saw Progressive Democrats try to weaken the law around who can be charged or stopped for a DUI, but thankfully Republicans on the committee fought to keep such restrictions in place.
It could take a decade or more for Burlington to recover from this current Progressive era (or perhaps more aptly this Progressive error) which has had the effect of sending good, qualified police officers to the nearest exits because of the antagonistic approach the City Council took with the police department. There literally aren’t enough recruits in the police academy to fill the needs of the BPD even if 100% of them went to Burlington instead of nearly any other city or town in the state where they would be more appreciated.
But this crime wave has a multiplier effect as well. Not only are individual Vermonters at risk of losing their life, but the fact that such an increase in risk exists is causing more and more businesses to find another home. We’ve already seen major retailers like L.L. Bean move out of the downtown area because of systemic theft that the Democrat-run city is not serious about addressing. Over time I would expect more businesses to follow suit. This loss of business is going to suck wealth out of the city and put a bigger tax burden on the people living there as more commercial spaces becomes vacant.
Republicans recognize that the first order of restoring public safety and reducing crime is to honor and properly fund and equip our police departments. We also need to make sure that criminals face consequences for endangering and threatening the public. Providing a safe environment for Vermonters to live work and play is the most basic and most essential responsibility of governing, and right now Democrats have been failing miserably. That’s why Republicans stand ready to prioritize and address this issue of public safety.