BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Tamping down on a dramatic increase in gunfire incidents in Vermont’s largest city is a top priority for Burlington’s mayor, the police department and the county prosecutor, the officials said Thursday.
Since the beginning of 2020 there have been 38 illegal gunfire incidents in the city, 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 individuals who are repeatedly committing these crimes to hear, if you recklessly discharge a firearm in Burlington you are going to be arrested and you are going to be held accountable,” Weinberger said.
The mayor’s comments come after a former city councilor was slightly wounded at about 7 p.m. on Sunday while sitting outside his home in the city’s Old North End.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George said she felt a combination of events was responsible for the increase, from the economic strain caused by the pandemic, to the lack of gun control, to the erosion of trust and confidence in the legal system.
She said she was committed to a collaborative approach to dealing with the issue.
“Everybody deserves to feel safe in their community and I understand that some people are not, they’re feeling scared right now,” she said.
Weinberger and Murad said that in 30 of the 38 gunfire incidents investigators have identified suspects, and more than half of those 30 cases “involve a recurring group of individuals as perpetrators, associated individuals or victims,” Weinberger said.
None of the incidents have resulted in serious incidents or deaths.
The mayor also called on the city council to approve a city budget that he plans to unveil next week that will help the police department build to its authorized headcount of 87.
Last fall the city had fewer than 70 officers available for operations. At that time Murad said it would take several years before the department would be able to field 87 officers.
Police have identified suspects in 19 shootings, and arrests have been made in 18 of those cases, Weinberger said.
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