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Burlington mayor and police chief discuss escalating gun violence in the city

Screenshot of Mayor Weinberger's gunfire incident presser
Burlington Police Department
/
Zoom
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger (left), Acting Police Chief Jon Murad (center) and Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George discuss increasing gun violence in the Vermont city

Burlington’s mayor and police chief along with the Chittenden County State’s Attorney held a briefing Thursday on the increasing number of shootings in the city this year — now up to a dozen.

Since the beginning of 2020 the city of Burlington has experienced what Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger calls a dramatic surge in incidents during which guns have been illegally discharged.

“For most of the last decade the BPD (Burlington Police Department) documented on average two of these incidents every year," the mayor said. "Since the beginning of 2020 we have documented 38 of these incidents including 12 so far this calendar year. While very few of these gunfire incidents to date thankfully have resulted in injury, the most recent shooting last Sunday in which a former city councilor was injured while sitting with friends in his backyard is a stark reminder that if these incidents continue there’s only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is badly hurt or worse.”

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad reported that detectives have leads in 30 of the 38 incidents, having arrested all but one of 19 alleged identified shooters.

“Something is happening in our community that is causing a shift that we have not seen before and that we need to get in front of," Murad said. "And we need to be able to address gun violence in ways that are new. We are on the cusp of a shift with these incidents. We are a hair’s breath away from something awful happening.”

In June 2020 the city council mandated the police department reduce the number of uniformed officers. After a consultant recommended a higher number the council increased the cap in October 2021, but the department is struggling to recruit employees. Weinberger is planning to include what he calls a rebuilding plan in his upcoming budget proposal.

“We need the City Council and the Burlington Police Commission to join us in making the reduction of gunfire incidents our highest public safety priority," Weinberger said. "The BPD cannot do all of what it has done historically with less than 60 effective officers, which is where we are now. To rebuild the officer ranks to the now authorized head count of 87 we need the City Council to approve and demonstrate their full support for the rebuilding plan that I will be submitting in my FY23 budget. The rebuilding plan would essentially increase by 50 percent our success at securing recruits.”

Acting Chief Murad has been meeting with state and federal law enforcement officials to create collaborative efforts to address gun violence. Weinberger says action is needed from state and federal lawmakers to stop the increasing gun violence trend.

“I was troubled and felt that too often the public safety focus in Montpelier this last session was not in touch with the reality of the local governments are facing on the ground," the mayor said. "We need legislators to make common sense changes to address impediments to reducing gun violence. A huge part of our gunfire problem of course is that it is far, far too easy to get access to guns in this country. We need the federal government to at long last take action to better regulate the access to guns.”

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