Police chief calls out senator for statements regarding retail theft offenders

South Burlington Police Chief Shawn Burke isn’t pleased with how Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, has been representing crime in his city — especially retail theft.

In an appearance on the Jan. 26 “Morning Drive” radio show last week, Burke criticized Baruth’s characterization of his force’s efforts to fight crime, especially retail theft.

“Senator Baruth brought up a scenario involving a local retailer in South Burlington, not different from other retailers in our community, that have been experiencing this phenomenon with retail thefts,” Burke said. “The assertion that I drew from the senator’s comments was that by simple apprehension we can deter this crime.


South Burlington Chief of Police Shawn Burke

“The notion that simple arrests will deter this phenomenon like any other criminality is misguided, and I think there has to be at least some form of consequence paired with the arrest.”

Using data to identify crime hot spots

According to Burke, police analyzed data on a specific retail location in the city and noticed that, between 2017 and 2023, the location had become a hot spot for police calls.

“We had realized that we had gone to this location 448 times, which is not insignificant, and 310 of those were for reported retail theft,” he said. “And we had made apprehensions, arrests, and referrals to the broader criminal justice system in 185 of those, so 60%. So 448 calls over a period of about five years to one business.”

It’s not clear which specific public comments by Baruth caught Burke’s attention. However, the senator appeared on the radio program on Dec. 5, where he discussed retail theft at Kohl’s and other stores in South Burlington.

In Vermont, thieves are allowed to steal up to $900 of goods with few consequences in law. Kohl’s has reported thieves filling up shopping carts and simply leaving the store, which Baruth discussed on the Dec. 5 “Morning Drive” program.

state of Vermont

Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden

“There were no police, even though they called the South Burlington Police, no police [were] waiting outside to catch the thieves,” Baruth said.

He recounted hearings from last year in the Senate, during which senators took testimony about retail theft.

“We did hold a series of hearings in the Judiciary Committee and we took testimony. … We eventually came to the conclusion that we believe it to be an enforcement and prosecution problem,” Baruth said.

“In other words, to go back to Kohl’s, I don’t think if we were to lower the $900 limit so that there was a stiffer penalty, I don’t think that would prevent theft. I do think what would prevent theft is if the South Burlington Police drove a police car up to the door, and sat it there, [and] caught a couple people with carts, I think that would significantly bring down the level of theft.”

A depleted force

Similar to police in neighboring Burlington, the South Burlington Police Department has been depleted by about 30%, according to Burke.

“We saw a huge retirement window last year and our team pivoted to a 12-hour schedule, and we maintained 24-hour service. Do we prioritize calls for service at the moment? We do have to do that, of course, that’s public safety. But we attend to every single call.”

Not all consequences mean imprisonment

Burke said criminals for many crimes do not face imprisonment or huge fines, but a “restorative process” that allows an offender to enter programs directed at re-engaging with society and becoming employed.

“Those directly go to our Community Justice Center for a restorative process where every single person that’s charged with those crimes gets a bite at that apple — they get an opportunity to go through a restorative process to resolve that. If the person doesn’t cooperate with that or engage in that process, then the case is forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s office.

A former retail worker calls in

About seven minutes into the show, one caller to the program said she had worked in retail, and said higher-ups in law enforcement are not helping reduce crime.

“We know that there’s only so much that the police can do thanks to the felony laws and the shoplifting laws and [Chittenden County State’s Attorney ] Sarah George,” she said. “… Mr. Baruth and a lot of these other folks, as they like to say, should spend a day working in a retail store and also spend a day working with the police forces to see how they have to prioritize domestics and drug abuse, and all the other things that our progressive state seems to want to blame on anyone but their own selves.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of LinkedIn and state of Vermont

36 thoughts on “Police chief calls out senator for statements regarding retail theft offenders

  1. I just watched the video about a new Amazon retail store. In order to get in your credit card is scanned. When you leave the store you are scanned with the merchandise you leave with and your card gets charged. Problem solved!

  2. It would be WONDERFUL & REFRESHING if everyone, who writes comments would refrain from “name calling”, (no matter their opinion about subject or of other writers). I’m for free speech, but
    I’d hope for respect and civility in posts/conversations. From a daily reader, who is thankful for
    the reporting of True North.

  3. Joy lurks here because people who bend conservative celebrate free expression and allow it to flourish on this website. She may rather prefer to express her opinions in a venue where more of the people share her ideology, such as VTDigger, but alas, they do NOT celebrate free expression and do not allow commentary. They dictate opinions that have passed the discretion of their ideological filter. Welcome to the world of free speech, Joy. Conservatism is about celebrating our GOD GIVEN, INALIENABLE LIBERTIES. Live it, love it.

    • It just so happens Rich, that VTDigger does not accept my anti-trans, transitioning and racism commentaries.
      Amazing, do you really only want to hear from the choir? They are exactly who I do not want to hear from. It is why I left the Dems.
      But TNR reports is not a place to hear from intelligent open-minded people. They just want to be comfortable in their ignorance. It’s mindboggling.

      If posters here want to go on and on and on with their Dem hatred, I too am free to counter how absurd it is. And I will.

    • S/he (They ?) is (are ?) a plant. Already violating the unwritten “rules” of commentary. It will be gone soon.

      Neil, how do you find these “people” ?

    • Wackjob. I’m not offended. I can only shake my head at the disgusting ignorance.

      Mike, this is the kind of ignorance that is pervasive on this site. God forbid that anyone should voice any opinion that is outside this ignorant, vulgar name-calling echo chamber.

      I am not a conservative, well I am on some issues but, even dedicated Repubs who post any idea to breath life into the Repub party are beaten up on by the ignorant mob.

      I’d like to hear just one Democratic idea that these fools can support. They are sooooo single-minded, incapable of dissonance. Lazy brains.

      • Joy said, “I’d like to hear just one Democratic idea that these fools can support. They are sooooo single-minded, incapable of dissonance”. Simple answer, There are none!
        You are confusing conservatives with the dem/prog hive mind. Democrats and progressives operate as a block with no individual thought allowed. I know I’m wasting my time with you. None of us should debate a know it all recovering liberal. They never fully recover!

  4. Chief Burke, never pay attention to any progressive democRAT in Montpelier, and
    especially one from Burlington, Baruth should just keep writing his novels, and leave
    crime & policing to those that know !!

    But then, he is ” Pro-Tem “, a carpetbagger in charge……………..

  5. Ultimately it is the majority of voters in Vermont, and specifically Chittenden County who are to blame for the general lawlessness: shoplifting, vagrancy, open drug use and littering of bloody syringes (given out by the thousands through “harm-reduction” programs) and the violent crime, mostly related to the drug trade.
    Those who elect misguided authoritarians like Baruth and State’s Attorney George and who vote for democrats and progressives in general have brought this plague of sociopathy upon our heads. Most voters have been brainwashed into believing that electing and supporting these parties is the “right thing to do” and the mark of a “compassionate society” but the predictable result of abandoning all demand for personal responsibility is destroying what was once a great place to live. Vermont is ultimately doomed when run by these commiecrats. Are we proud of ourselves for having turned Vermont into the California of the northeast?

    • Blame, blame, blame, blame.

      If Repubs can’t win elections than they too are responsible for all that you blame on the Dems.

  6. When societies collapse, it is people like Senator Baruth who deserve much of the credit. From here on, I want to see any crime reported to also report the men or women representing that district where the crime occured. The representatives in these communities need to be given the credit for how their represenation makes an impact upon their communities. It is our duty to give appropriate “shout outs” and “kudos” to the representatives where these crimes occur and give them the credit they so deserve.

    • When societies collapse its because they are ruled by one party. I agree that Dems are causing great harm. I have not voted for one in many campaign cycles.
      But, Repubs are every bit at fault. They do not address the needs of the people because they are so ridiculously fixated on abortion. So they don’t get voted in.

      • Their is only one corrupt party, many of us refer to it rightly as the Uniparty. There is no right or left, only different, shades of corruption

  7. baruth has no idea what he’s talking about, if the cops sat outside and arrested the criminal thieves the DA wouldn’t press charges and let them go. Hence a waste of police time and no deterrent to thieves.. What would be a deterrent is armed guards in the store with orders to shoot them if they go out the door. That will send a STRONG message that stealing don’t pay.

      • Well it’s better then the muslim method of cutting off their hands. and as Neil stated a taser is perfect. I never said firearm joyless.

      • First you tell them to cease and desist from leaving the property with stolen goods.
        If they resist, then refuse their exit until the police come. If they threaten with weapons, then shoot them. Send the bill for all this action as well as cleanup to the family.
        How hard is that? Works in most places around the planet, is Vermont that different?

  8. The heart of this story is not crime at this one “hot spot”

    The heart of this story is VERMONT is exceptional good at covering up crime!

    Do you think this is the only store with this type of crime?
    Of course not!
    It is the only store reporting, that is for sure!

    Lobbyist pay offs?
    Revolving door between lobbyist and government?
    No ethics, with money, enforcement, and one of the lowest grades in the nation?
    Utter disregard for the law of our land, the vt constitution?
    Complete censureship of thought and speech?
    Ruining careers via cancel,culture?

    If not for this one store constantly reporting crime in Vermont, we’d think we are a utopia! No the heart of this story and the heart of Vermont’s issues is we are really good at covering up crime and criminal activities.

    The mob is still trying to figure out how to compete with Montpelier, they get more money from the businesses, they run all,the gambling, run all the booze,at really high prices, legalize prostitution, legalize drug sales, allow crime to run rampant, get kick backs from the Feds, allow drug runners through out the state, and have stronger enforcement than Connie with his baseball bat with their cancel culture! And they control not only ALL the trash but the media too!

    Oh and how could we leave out that all the politicians are openly on the parol? Balaint was bought for a $1. The VERMONT dem were bought for about $3500 each by planned parenthood and the governor refilled pp coffers with your tax dollars.

    This is a big story, but it’s not the crime at kohls, it’s the cover up,of crime in Vermont.
    We owe kohls a debt of gratitude for having the guts to report it.

    • I’m not advocating crime still, this crime spree at kohl’s couldn’t happen to a more deserving store. I hate kohl’s policies. I normally use only cash. I do use a kohl’s credit card solely to get discounts while at this same time paying on the spot. If I have to return the purchase they do not give me cash back. I have to wait months for them to send me a check for the credit on my account. I avoid shopping at kohl’s because of it.
      I did report them to the AG’s office. I guess until more shoppers report them, the AG’s office won’t take it up.

      • Your heart is shown, they return your money, there is no law that says anyone has to take any thing in return after the sale.

        They are probably tracking people who buy stuff and return on a regular basis.

        Some people buy stuff for an event, wear it, then return it.

        Kohls has been great to me.

      • Because you dislike Kohl’s policies, you feel that they deserve to be stolen from?
        That is the opinion of a sociopath. If I dislike your opinions, can I slash your tires?
        I am a person who believes in celebrating diversity and in respecting the culture of other people. That being said, I am not a fan of the way women are treated as property in many Islamic cultures, but I do approve of the way they deal with thieves…off with their hands!

  9. Perhaps we should have Veritas troll our Capitol with the tv truck, showing all the criminals leaving the stores with shopping carts of items!

    But then they might use that video and list of people for political recruitment!

    Criminals overseeing criminals is not a recipe for Justice.

    In many ways this isn’t a political issue to be solved with politics, it’s a spiritual issue. When you are filled with a certain spirit you have, and this has been known for thousands of years…..

    Illicit sex,rivalry,jealousy, angry outbursts, hatred, drug use, selfish ambition,perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, conflict, factions, and of course activity like stealing fits right in, that was one of the commandments….

    How do we really solve this problem? We must change our direction, change, train our hearts toward the only person who can change us, we have to realize that as a people we are hopelessly flawed, We don’t have the answers, but someone else does! We have to humble ourselves and follow what is divine.

    When vermont, has a change of heart only then will our state change. When VERMONT politicians and those who elect them realize they are NOT in control and they are NOT God’s and THEY are NOT going to save the world , but in fact are the problem, only then will their be hope. Repent=Change of direction.

    When we follow and look to truth and love, who is Jesus Christ, only then will we be able to change, because we can’t change without him. Without him we can only keep doing what we aren’t supposed to do and not doing what we are supposed to do.

    When we as a person, people, state, repent, and are filled with a different spirit will we get its nature, it’s fruit of, self control, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness, patience, peace, joy and love.

    Until then we might just be experiencing the hell on earth of our current spirit, not worry Jesus wants all his people, home, he’s already won, we only need to change our priorities.


    Carried our in that order, brings about the prescribed acronym. TGBTG

    • Ps the Good Book, has the answer In how to treat small crime like this and nobody is even close to prescribing the right remedy. It’s fair, it’s cost effective, it works…but we have no clue, because we don’t read we only watch stupid videos on the Internet and get force fed by propaganda on our smart phones for how to live our lives.

      Seek and ye shall find. Watch you smart phone at your own peril.

      • Neil, the ‘good book’ was written by flawed MEN and doesn’t have all the answers. It is a crutch for far too many sheep.

        The book is valuable only that it can guide our living and it is no better or worse a guide than ancient philosophers and GREAT writers.

    • Jesus was not popular either. nobody wants to hear the truth. You are spot on with your statement and I wholeheartedly agree. The gate to heaven is narrow for a reason let the doubters discover the reason on their own.

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