By Guy Page
With 94 violent gun incidents thus far in 2022, Vermont is “swimming upstream” against a flood of opiates and related violent crime, the Vermont Department of Public Safety said this week.
A Vermont Weekly Gun Violence Summary emailed to this newspaper by the Vermont Department of Public Safety shows 94 separate incidents of gun violence this year through May 16:
- Firearms homicide victims (excludes suicides) – 3
- Gunshot victims with not lethal injuries – 8
- Firearm fired in victim’s presence (no injuries or damage reported) – 25
- Property struck by bullets – 11
- Firearm displayed to threaten (not fired) – 47
- Total: 94
The report also shows 35 sounds of gunshots reported. Together, these incidents total 129 – enough to average one for every day of the week through May 9. Because the gun violence summary is new this year, there are no Year-To-Date data to compare it to, DPS officials said.
“A large cross-section of firearm-related incidents statewide are drug-related,” Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said at Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference Tuesday May 17. “There are robust efforts in drug interdiction on a federal state and a local level, he said, citing the SWAT team raid of a drug nest in the Town of Washington earlier this month.
Schirling also credited the Dept. of Health for its addiction treatment programs. But the big picture doesn’t look promising.
“It does seem that those efforts, while making some ground in some areas, are swimming upstream against a flood of opiates and related substances,” Schirling said. “So there’s a lot more work to be done.”
Scott took particular notice of the Biden administration’s failure to slow down the flow of fentanyl being smuggled into the U.S., and the dwindling numbers of police.
“Would you be willing to go on the record saying the Biden administration has not done such a great job in stopping the flow of opiates across the southern border?” Vermont Daily Chronicle asked Scott – a frequent public critic of the Trump administration, but less so of the current administration.
“We’re seeing that fentanyl is the issue,” Scott said. “It’s not just coming from the southern border, although I acknowledge a great deal of it is coming from there, but coming from China as well, and other places. It’s relatively inexpensive and is being manufactured even within the country. So that’s a huge concern. I think the Biden administration has to do a better job in trying to stop the illicit migration of the illicit drug into the country, from all standpoints.”
“This isn’t going away. It’s not getting better,” Scott concluded of the fentanyl crisis. “The pandemic has made the situation even worse. We have a tough road ahead of us.”
Scott added that he’s concerned that police are retiring and “we aren’t getting as many coming in as we would hope to get the training necessary.”