Burlington, VT — The Burlington Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have announced a joint task force to address the increase in shootings and gunfire incidents in Chittenden County.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force will help Burlington police better respond to gun crime. He said ending gun violence is his top priority, and acting Chief Jon Murad BPD has assigned five detectives to investigate firearm-related crimes.

The city has seen a sharp spike in gunfire incidents this year. From 2012 through 2019, the average number of gunfire incidents in Burlington was two. This year, there have been 23, including several homicides and 12 incidents resulting in injury. Police say seven suspects have been arrested.

“We have been very focused on holding accountable individuals – persons – who are responsible for these crimes,” said Weinberger. “The creation of this task force gives us more tools and partners and focus to ensure that we make good on the idea that if someone commits a gun crime in Burlington, we are going to do everything we can to hold them accountable.”

The task force is a consortium of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that will pool their resources and share information to investigate gun violence. Burlington’s ATF field office will receive a National Integrated Ballistic Information Network acquisition station to help link gun-related crimes and provide investigative leads.

Murad said the task force will “take a unified strategy” to gather evidence, including forensic and ballistic evidence needed to identify suspects.

“We need to track trends and develop intelligence,” he said. “We need to investigate crimes that relate to and sometimes lead to gun violence, like trafficking in narcotics and illegal guns. We need to follow up on gun-violence cases after arrest, and get prosecutor feedback about what’s making strong cases so we can improve what we put forward.”

Governor Phil Scott said his office has been working with the task force to expand its reach beyond Chittenden County. “We know there’s a problem there,” he said, “but we have other areas of the state as well, so we don’t want to just concentrate on Chittenden County.”

Weinberger says he is confident the city can work its way to lessening gun violence.

“We are making steady progress on this commitment, and the creation of this task force expands the law-enforcement capacity and tools being dedicated to this effort,” he said.