BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Containing a dramatic increase in shootings in Vermont’s largest city is a top priority for Burlington’s mayor, the police department and the county’s attorney general, officials said Thursday.
There have been 38 illegal shootings in the city since the beginning of 2020, including 12 this year, according to Mayor Miro Weinberger and Acting Police Chief Jon Murad. Before that, the city averaged about two such incidents a year.
“I want the people who are repeating these crimes to hear that if you recklessly fire a gun in Burlington, you will be arrested and held accountable,” Weinberger said.
The mayor’s comments come after a former councilman was slightly injured while sitting outside his home in the city’s Old North End around 7pm on Sunday.
Chittenden County Prosecutor Sarah Fair George said she believes a combination of events is responsible for the surge, from the economic toll of the pandemic to a lack of gun control and the erosion of trust in the legal system.
She said she advocates a collaborative approach to solving the problem.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community and I understand some people aren’t, they’re scared right now,” she said.
Weinberger and Murad said investigators have identified suspects in 30 of the 38 shooting incidents, and more than half of those 30 cases “involve a recurring group of individuals as perpetrators, associates, or victims,” Weinberger said.
None of the incidents resulted in any serious incidents or fatalities.
The mayor also asked the city council to approve a city budget, which he plans to present next week, that will help the police department build its authorized 87 staff.
Last fall, the city had fewer than 70 officers available for deployment. At the time, Murad said it would be several years before the department could field 87 officers.
Police identified suspects in 19 shootings, and arrests were made in 18 of those cases, Weinberger said.
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