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.
About Vermont Daily Chronicle: every weekday, we publish 10 Vermont-related news and commentary articles. Subscriptions to Vermont Daily Chronicle are free. Subscribing takes less than one minute: click here to subscribe and receive the daily edition in your email. The Vermont Daily Chronicle is supported almost exclusively by Contributing Readers who appreciate our unique place in the Vermont news media and generously give $108/year (some give more, some less) via PayPal or by writing a check to Vermont Daily Chronicle, P.O. Box 1547, Montpelier Vermont, 05641.