Burlington community members and business owners are taking notice of the increase in crime in 2022, a year in which the Queen City saw five homicides, the most in the city’s recorded history.
The city also recorded 26 gunfire incidents, the most in at least 10 years. While Acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad is hopeful those numbers were an anomaly, some are worried it’s becoming a trend.
“I talk to people and they say they don’t want to come down here because they think it’s unsafe,” says Kountry Kraft Deli owner Mike Williams, who has been a restaurant owner in Burlington’s downtown for 35 years. “I could think of just one gun incident in my 35 years. But 25 this year?”
Kountry Kart Deli used to be open until 3am, Williams said, but not now. “We’re a popular downtown spot especially after the bars close,” he said. “But we don’t want to draw a large crowd into one location and have something happen there.”
Car thefts are significantly up from the five-year average. Murad calls the thefts crimes of opportunity.
“The cars are used to commit other crimes,” he said. “Some] move around the city, [and others] live in the cars at times.”
Henry Howell, a senior of Champlain College, says he feels less safe than he used to. He says he’s been harassed on the city’s streets, and once he was chaded down an alley. In May. Howell’s car was broken into, and he came home to see what appeared to be someone living in it.
“[I saw] broken windows, bunch of bags and stuff, and lots of dead animals in the back,” Howell says. “Not sure what’s up with that.”
Despite the record high number of crimes, Murad is optimistic for a safer year.
“A number of these gunfire incidents were related to a relatively small group of folks and we have made in-roads against the actors,” Murad says. 2022 saw some numbers that are really unacceptable and awful numbers as some kind of crimes, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to reverse those numbers in 2023.”
In July of 2020, the department had 92 officers. Those numbers are now down to 63 officers.
In order to incentivize new officers to come to the area, the department is offering $15,000 signing bonuses.
Three officers graduated last month from the Vermont Police Academy and five are anticipated to be hired in the next academy class in February.