Vermont ACLU director says funding police ‘doesn’t get to root causes’ of crime

Wikimedia Commons/Mike Shaheen

DEFUND THE POLICE: Social activists called for defunding the police after the death of George Floyd in 2020.

On Tuesday’s Vermont Edition program, James Lyall, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, and Liam Elder-Connors, a Vermont Public crime reporter, discussed crime trends in Burlington — and said crime may not be rising as much as residents think.

“We’re seeing from police and defenders of the status quo a return to the tough on crime narrative, and that’s taking hold in places like Burlington, and is showing up now in national news coverage — saying the city used to be safe but then supposedly defunded the police, and the city won’t be safe again unless or until they hire more police to get tougher on crime,” Lyall said.


James Lyall, executive director of ACLU of Vermont

He added that the root causes for increased crime are more about the deteriorating economic status in the local communities and less about reductions in officers patrolling the streets.

“If the focus is on police levels, which it has been incessantly for the past two years, that doesn’t get to the root causes and it doesn’t get to the solutions. It actually distracts from the root causes and solutions that we need to be working towards,” Lyall said.

Vermont Edition host Connor Cyrus cited a poll showing 56% of Vermonters believe that crime is up in their area. He noted that is the highest point for that statistic in five decades.

Elder-Connors noted gun-related incidents are up in the Queen City.

“We do see there are 25 gun-related incidents, which is when a gun is fired in a criminal way, and that is up quite a bit from what has traditionally been the case in Burlington,” he said.

From 2012 to 2019 the city averaged about two incidents a year involving guns.

Elder-Connors also reported that aggravated assaults, stolen vehicles, and drug overdoses are up, but some other crimes, such as disorderly conduct, are down.

“An important point is that violent offenses have generally declined since 2012,” he said.

Both guests ultimately challenged the narrative that crime is rising. However, callers to the program, including at least one business owner in the city, claimed that crime is in fact way up.

The first caller, simply identified as Julie, she said she’s a landlord in Burlington and a former resident.

“Five or six years ago I lived on my property on Elmwood Avenue. And the experience that I had then was that when there was an issue and we had to call the police, the response was nearly immediate. Today, when my tenant and I have to call the police for the same type of incident, the response time is 4 to 5 hours to wait, which is obviously too late to really do anything about the immediate threat.”

She also said multiple tenants have broken their leases to escape the rise in crime.

Another caller, identified as “Tiki in Burlington,” also said crime is rising.

“Unreported crimes are markedly increased, and one can sense that not just from walking around or looking at Front Porch Forum for example, where there are a number of posts from folks … reporting property crimes and that sort,” he said.

In 2020, Burlington City Council voted to cut the police force by 30%, taking its cap from 105 down to 74. Funds were reallocated to unarmed officers or social workers to aid in such areas as mental health calls.

However some police officers chose to leave right away.

“That ended up happening a lot faster than expected and officers started leaving in droves,” Elder-Connors said. “The number dropped really, really quickly.”

On Thursday, the Vermont ACLU tweeted that increased funding for law enforcement and prisons misses the “root cause” of violence.

However, Burlington continues to make headlines for its rise in serious crimes, with the latest by the Washington Examiner on Tuesday.

“The largest city in Vermont has seen homicides spike to a level unmatched in more than 60 years in the wake of a push to defund the police,” The Washington Examiner reported on Tuesday.

The entire Vermont Edition program on crime in Burlington can be heard online here.

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

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Mike Shaheen and ACLU

5 thoughts on “Vermont ACLU director says funding police ‘doesn’t get to root causes’ of crime

  1. If you listen to police and emergency scanners….

    You might find every other day someone overdosing in Waterbury.
    In some communities its EVERY DAY…

    You don’t need a permit to deal drugs, you won’t go to jail and you won’t get fined, it’s a drug dealers paradise….

    Yet you put on an addition, or make your house 2ft too tall, or try to pump gas at costco, nad your in for all sorts of fines, court cases, etc. etc.

    Take a taxi from NY to go to get chinese in Vermont, a known drug hang out, with a taxi cab full of drugs and when you get busted you’ll be let of for police profiling.

    Where does business thrive? Where it’s easy, few restrictions and customers. Vermont is legalizing every hard core drug out there, making it easier and easier…..

    ACLU here’s your sign.

    Here yet again we have another organization running our state that isn’t elected, isn’t our government, but clearly is running the show. We’ve been taken over.

  2. Yup doesn’t address the leftest destruction of morals, family, hard work, religion and destruction of education. Until those items are repaired there is little chance of criminals seeking a meaningful life as a productive citizen instead of a slug on society whom the left holds as victims..

  3. If the ACLU is grasping for answers about “root causes”, maybe they can look at the number of children being raised in fatherless situations and the overall demise of the nuclear family. The statistics would track nicely over the last 50+ years with violent crime, petty thievery, suicide and animal abuse. This may bring about some introspection about all the leftist causes they have celebrated and defended over the years that dismiss and discredit the importance of the family as the basic unit of civilized people, or is that concept just too “Euro-centric” and intolerant to embrace? Tough but fair on crime works. Given the fact that there will always be some sociopaths in our midst, having a credible system of sanctions levied against people who harm others is the very foundation and definition of a civilized society. Why is it so hard for those on the left to understand that concept?

    • They understand it, they have a different vision and goal. They are moving well ahead on their plans, it’s all intentional….from both parties…

  4. The false dichotomy presented by James Lyall, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, and Liam Elder-Connors of VT Public, is that our concern isn’t about increases or decreases in crime, but what society does about an offense when it occurs. Just one violation by a repeat offender is too much, despite the rate of increase or decrease. And no matter how one’s economic status deteriorates does not justify a crime, especially given the level of publicly funded support already available.

    What’s happening here is the realization that progressive policies are creating a social dystopia and those responsible for the policies are trying to divert attention from their misguided leadership.

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