BURLINGTON, Vt. – The Burlington Police Department still hasn’t had to write tickets for violators of Governor Phil Scott’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order.
Overall, Deputy Police Chief Jon Murad said calls to the department have decreased during the pandemic. Compared to the period of March 15 through May 1 last year, calls have dropped roughly 25 percent.
“Last year during that same period, there were 3,432, this year there have been 2607, so a significant drop-off,” Murad said. “Arrests are also significantly down.”
Some minor offenses unrelated to stay-at-home orders have been going through a slightly different process, due to what Interim Chief Jennifer Morrison called a ‘near standstill’ in the court system.
“There are many minor offenses that are either not being pursued to avoid a huge glut when the court open back up, or low level offenses that we’re channeling through to alternative processes at the Community Justice Center,” Morrison said.
There has been a slight uptick in incidents of domestic violence and commercial burglary, according to Deputy Murad. He said that more often than not, callers are concerned about a rise in graffiti despite more serious incidents, including four shooting incidents in a two-week period.
“The people that would commit graffiti crime have more leeway to do so on empty streets, and the opportunities that we have to mitigate it through painting and covering was minimized for a long time, because we were just as obligated to obey the Governor’s stay home stay safe order as anyone,” Murad said. “We could not send crews out to repair.”
Morrison said the department volunteered seven officers to be part of the state-wide contact tracing team, but they weren’t needed.
Now, hypothetical discussions about how those officers could still put contact-tracing training to use locally have started.
“How could we use them not only just for the police department to keep people in our building safe, but for the whole city?” asked Morrison. “If there’s a situation where there’s an outbreak in the city, could we be useful? Or, another outcome would be if the State’s team gets overwhelmed.”
Morrison also added that PPE availability for officers has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic, and there’s no longer a concern about running out of supplies. She said that has been largely due to State contributions and donations from private companies.