Burlington Police Chief: Overdoses this year at “unconscionable levels”

By Michael Bielawski

The latest Burlington Police Chief’s report contains a sobering new milestone: the city has seen at least 350 overdoses this year. To put that into perspective, the previous high of last year was 155 as of the same date on September 15.

As recently as 2019 there were only 34 overdoses by this date. 

“Overdoses in Burlington are at unconscionable levels,” the report states. “It is possible there may be as many as 500 by year’s end.”

Overdoses as recorded in this report do not generally imply deaths, but can include deaths. It states, “The Valcour category of ‘Overdose’ generally does not include fatal overdoses—those are usually carried under the category ‘Untimely.’ A death cannot be officially called an overdose until the medical examiner determines a cause of death. In some instances, our detective bureau explores charges for ‘Selling or dispensing a regulated drug with death resulting,’ 18 VSA §4250.”

The report does not break down if these overdoses were deaths. It continues that it is sometimes difficult to hold drug dealers accountable.

“But because of the prevalence of polydrug results from toxicology reports, it is exceedingly challenging to make a case against a single provider of drugs to hold them accountable for someone’s overdose death,” it states.

The Queen City has been under scrutiny over the years for embracing increasingly liberal drug policies, including calls to have safe injection sites for users of drugs that require needles to take them. As recently as the end of August, some key state leaders continued to call for such sites.

Advocacy for supervised drug injection sites

On August 31, around 70 residents got together at Burlington’s City Hall Park to remember those lost to overdoses. The event was part of recognition for International Opioid Overdose Awareness Day.

According to reports, some state leadership is still on board with these injection sites.

“Back in Burlington, multiple speakers, including Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky (P/D-Chittenden-Central District) and Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George, called for the city to open safe injection sites and decriminalize drugs,” the Seven Days story states.

Safe injection sites are relatively new to the United States but they have been experimented with in other nations for longer. OPB.org did a news report on the matter.

“Supervised drug-consumption sites go back decades in Europe, Australia and Canada,” it states. “Several U.S. cities and the state of Rhode Island have approved the concept, but no authorized sites were actually operating until New York’s opened in November.”

It continues, “The announcement came six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that a planned Philadelphia site was illegal under a 1986 federal law against running a venue for illicit drug use.”

New York City has been leading the nation’s effort in safe injection policies. Russia Today reports on their first site.

“Well-stocked with “safer smoking” kits containing free crack pipes, “safer sniffing” equipment, fentanyl testing strips, overdose-reversing Narcan nasal sprays, nicotine gum and condoms on Monday morning, the big blue box contained just one overdose-reversal kit and a pair of testing strips the next day,” the report states.

A report by the London Telegraph on Tuesday morning indicated that crime overall is up in the Big Apple as behaviors in the city become increasingly unrestricted. The report notes that homelessness is up 20% just in the last year.

“There’s a new sense of lawlessness coursing through New York City, and I’m not talking about the city’s well-documented crime spikes. I mean a return to rampant low-level vice that feels at once entirely out of control – yet inexplicably well-behaved – and thoroughly post-pandemic.”

The report continues, “From the city’s thousands of unlicensed pot dispensaries and the throngs of illegal vendors now crowding the Brooklyn Bridge, to my clandestine Uptown exercising and the dozens of Queens prostitutes now operating in broad daylight, New York’s newest tag-line might as well be “anything goes.” 

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle.

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Categories: Burlington

14 replies »

  1. Wrong adjective Chief, it is completely logical that we see these numbers of overdose given the years of policymakers creating this current reality. Overdose, quick let’s narcan them so they can overdose again tomorrow, or this afternoon! Very sensible.

    • Are you the one who is going to deny Narcan to addicts, thereby condemning them to death?

      • Narcan is not the solution to solving the drug problem. It is only an enabler. You need to get these people into rehab centers and educate them.

      • Heard Narcan doesn’t work on some of these more potent drugs – which is the point of this process. Depopulation and democide. The process won’t stop if those who can stop it are profiteering from it. All by design.

  2. Joe Biden and gang refuse to close the southern border where tons of fentanyl are flooding in along with hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens. Dump Joe and close the border to reduce drug overdoses.

    • About 10 percent of those illegal aliens are gangsters, and prohibition is creating an incredible financial incentive for them to cross the border carrying drugs: if the drugs were available in a drug store without any hassle, the gangsters would have no customers and would go out of business. Prohibitionists created the problems which they are complaining about!

    • Vegetable Joe Zero is destroying the fiber of this country…5.3 million illegals have crossed the borders in his ‘administration’ … and more to come every day…the damaging consequences will take their toll for years and years to come…

  3. When I decided to stop drinking it was because I almost killed myself. Stop The narcan and lets those who survive an overdose decide if they want to change

  4. The people who think that defunding and/or decreasing the number of the police is a good idea because it reduces crime must also think that defunding fire departments reduces fires.Our country is on the wrong path, and we need to get on the right one as soon as possible. Let consequences for crime be strong, firm, and most of all be carried out. Don’t legalize drugs…the gates will be fully opened for the galloping stampede of even more drug dealers from out-of-state…Let’s not elect the ivory tower philosopher types who are now drinking the Kool Aid, or overcome somehow by its ever present hallucinatory aroma…

    • Don’t legalize drugs…the gates will be fully opened for the galloping stampede of even more drug dealers from out-of-state

      Why would anyone want to buy a dangerous, unlabeled drug from a gangster when a safe alternative is available in drug stores? When alcohol was legalized, where was the “galloping stampede” of out-of-state alcohol dealers?

  5. Receiving a get out of jail free card at this juncture only appears to encourage reckless behavior. Of course there is a part of all of us that wants to help. Most of us do not choose put a needle in our arm, take pills or walk off a cliff. At some point conscious decisions do have consequences. Think about the 350 times our first responders have been misdirected and could have been at some place where needed needed by someone who did not abuse themselves or the system.

    Tough love may be putting a sense of order to the disorder confronting us. We cannot let this insanity overwhelm us.

    Making it easier has had an unseen consequence of inviting in more who burden and do not add to our society. We can make all the excuses or equivocate for them all we want but in the end we all want to be a just and civil society. For those that operate at the margins , go ahead, but the catching net may not be there.

    I would warrant that everyone of the 350 YTD overdosing people know ad infinitum their rights. But I would venture a guess that a few of them know their responsibilities

  6. Overdoses this year at “unconscionable levels”

    …entirely the fault of prohibitionists who make regulation impossible…