Berlin, VT- Already short dozens of uniformed troopers, Vermont State Police has been forced to shuffle staffing and resources to investigate eight gun-related homicides this month.
At his weekly news conference, Gov. Phil Scott said the agency has been stretched thin by the rash of killings. “We don’t have the troopers to fill the need on a good day,” he said.
Col. Matthew Birmingham, director of Vermont State Police, said the agency is short 51 troopers, requiring some shuffling of resources. “We have had to reallocate uniformed resources to assist with these homicides,” Birmingham said.
Police have made arrests in two of the cases: two men are in custody for an alleged homicide in Plainfield, and a a 14-year-old Burlington teen facses second-degree murder charges in the killing of a Shelburne teen.
Meanwhile, Police continue to look for suspects in the death of two Massachusetts men whose bodies were found in Eden, a suspicious death in Washington and two homicides in the Northeast Kingdom.
Birmingham said that while there are no direct connections to the homicides, many appear to be drug-related.
“The majority of the eight homicides we’ve seen this month have a drug connection to them,” he said, “but it is too early in this process to definitively to say drugs were the driver behind it.”
Over a year ago, Scott released his ten-point public safety plan which emphasizes “frontline law enforcement capacity” and the “immediate reduction, prevention and prosecution of violent crime statewide.”
“We just need to do more of it,” Scott said. “That plan is still valid and we need to double down working with communities.”
Scott said he is open to discussing further gun reform, as well as increasing capacity in mental health care, when the legislative session begins in January. But also acknowledges that the state has been successful with earlier reforms, including a red flag law and changes in waiting periods for handgun purchases.