Fearing retail theft, some Burlington businesses lock doors to sidewalk traffic

Customers asked to ring bell or call to be let inside

By Michael Bielawski

A handful of businesses in Burlington have resorted to locking their front doors and asking that visitors call first instead of simply walking in. The measure appears to be an attempt to mitigate rising crime rates such as theft from stores with small and valuable items such as jewelry.

It’s affecting business”

John Jensen, the manager of Ten Thousand Villages on Church Street, took a moment to speak with the Vermont Daily Chronicle.

“What I will say is, that it is very challenging here right now,” he said.

He said the lack of police presence since they began facing staff shortages in recent years has been tough. In 2020 the City Council voted to reduce its force by about 30 percent.

“I think some people want more laws when the police department can’t enforce the laws that are already on the books,” Jensen added. “I don’t know what the solution is to it, but it’s frustrating because it’s affecting business in general.”

The popular Church Street area, featuring much of the city’s shopping, restaurants, and cafes, has been impacted. Some people are voting with their feet. “People are making European trips now instead of local vacations,” he said.

Drug use and mental health issues, police presence getting better
Ali Dumont, manager of Von Bargen’s, a jewelry shop on Church Street, said that other issues may be contributing to rising crime.

“With the uptick of drug use and mental health issues now, we started locking our door this winter after we had a theft,” she said.

Dumont continued, “So for a while, we saw a decreased police presence which made us feel not so very comfortable. But in the last, I would say, six months, we’ve seen a large uptick in police presence on the street.”

Store owners also are working together. A report appearing in Seven Days described how multiple stores were hit in one spree. With help from police, the alleged thief was identified and tracked down. Seven Days reported that ‘the stores banded together, trading info and images of the man, whom the police identified after publishing a photo of him.’ James Lisaius was arrested and $14,000 of stolen items were recovered.

The police suggest watching videotapes
Trena Isley, the Manager at Tradewinds Imports, spoke some about these issues including she shared some advice she got from police who otherwise cannot respond very much in person.

She said it’s not so much break-ins during off hours that are the concern regarding crime, rather it’s thefts that occur during operating hours. She said that calling the police gets little response, but they have advised to identify someone – usually via their camera systems – who has stolen from the store in the past. If they return, at least that person can be confronted and told to leave the store.

“That’s basically what the police told us to do,” Isley said.

Off the record

Not everyone wished to be on the record. One explained that to report on crime is a catch-22 because they would like to see action taken but they also need customers to come into their stores and believe that they will be safe doing so, which creates an awkward situation for store owners who are seeing thefts occur.

At least one other store person reiterated that when the police are called, there’s most often no response. This person also said any thefts of $800 or under don’t seem to justify the police to even look at the security tapes.

As of today, Michael Bielawski is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle. He is a former reporter for True North Reports. 

Categories: Burlington, Business

23 replies »

  1. Sorry businesses but: Go woke, go broke.


    • Your statement is misdirected. It appears that non-woke businesses are affected as well, should these businesses “go broke” too? Should they have closed in 2020 and perhaps relocated elsewhere? Some, such as LL Bean did. LL Bean could afford to move. The lack of action by Burlington and Chittenden County government is the issue here, not someone trying to maintain a long established business downtown. You anger should be reserved for S.A. sarah george, whom sees herself above Vermont law and Vermont’s constitution. Burlington’s city councillors are blatantly guilty of directly causing the ills Burlington faces. The mayor too is responsible- but ultimately it is Burlington voters that have placed these people in positions they clearly should not be in.
      If a Burlington business owner resides somewhere else, that person can not (by law) vote in Burlington elections. That person has no vote nor much say in Burlington politics. This problem is directly attributable to Burlington’s politics and voters.
      Your anger and frustration may be justified, It is extremely misdirected.

      • All people pay for the evil in this world. As a pro-life Christian & thanks to the Democrat Party, I am indirectly paying for women to murder their unborn babies. As a citizen of VT, my personal tax dollars are enabling innocent children to “transition” to the opposite sex without parental approval or knowledge, to distribute condoms to kids as young as eleven, and to have them, in many cases, taught the great “benefits” of Communism. When someone else chooses to DUI, someone I love may be killed or maimed in the process.

        No longer can any individual in this society afford to kick back passively and simply allow others to behave or act in an amoral and/or politically/socially repugnant fashion and “live & let live”. Our entire way of life, our personal safety, and the survival of our entire nation is at stake. We are all suffering in one way or another due to the dangerous actions being taken by these deranged elected officials which the electorate chronically insists on electing year in & year out. Let the chips fall where they may – is my point.

        Martin Luther King said: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the BAD people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.

        In this instance, the business owners are being injured as well as the customers. If you cannot vote in Burlington yourself, speak out to those who do. Take action. Until we all do en masse – we ALL are learning that it is a fact: Go woke, go broke. And it hurts…..everyone.

  2. I believe this is called “equity.” Oddly the same thing is happening in LA, SF, Portland, Seattle, NY, Minneapolis, etc.

    t’s almost like this is a systematic dismantling and destruction of our once peaceful and prosperous western republic..,

    • These Communist policies aren’t like that, they are exactly that. The systemic destruction of this once Constitutional Republic. THIS is our nation’s “existential threat”!!! And thus far the right, i.e.: the righteous, are NOT winning.

  3. Burlington may have finally smartened up and increased the number of police and the foot patrols on the marketplace but without a prosecutor who takes her job seriously, there is no credible deterrent to those who shoplift. The majority of voters in Chittenden County have shown their contentment with Sarah George who apparently feels that the injustices and inequities of our society justify some people “in need” from grabbing whatever they want and now even displaying violent behavior when confronted by store personnel. Why anyone would have a retail business in downtown Burlington or anywhere else in the County is beyond common sense.
    COVID closed down many essential retail businesses and was a bonus for the big boxes who sold “essential goods”. Now the lack of law enforcement is driving more retail shoppers to the internet for home delivery of everything from groceries to furniture, clothing etc. Isn’t marxism wonderful?

  4. I don’t feel sorry for them at all. This is what you get when you vote for the Progressive/Communists.
    Go Woke, Go Broke.

  5. This makes me so angry to see my home state controlled by these woke socialists in Congress and Senate. I long for the days we didn’t even lock our homes at night or our cars when we went shopping. The crime started with the takeover by our government and socialist programs that were taken from the towns like welfare, which brought thousands into the state for the free benefits. Vermont was known as the welfare state. No longer did people have to work. Then we were taken over by the rich out of staters who came for the serenity and peaceful way of life who took over more and more of our town offices and state offices and changed our way of life to what they had come from to escape! Much like what the woke say was done to the Indians. What a hypocritical bunch of idiots we have now!

  6. I used to love to go to Burlington and spend time there. Was such a fun city. I and many people I know, will no longer will go there.

  7. Does anyone else hear “Gangsta’s Paradise” playing in their heads as they read this? Or am I just very specifically dating myself?

    • Lol, good song insofar as Rap “music” goes. A song about life in the hood before the rappers began vocalizing about raping their mothers, using women like chattel, murdering cops, and competing for the vilest lyrics. Yes, it was the early period before rap went rank. So there you have it. We’re BOTH dating ourselves.

  8. People, keep electing these liberal fools to run your towns and their de-fund
    the police BS, and as you see letting criminals run free…..

    So all you store owners, you’ll need to fend off the low lives, as you’re
    on your own………………..Thanks to your Liberal in charge !!

  9. Luckily, for white women there is now a venue to to be rid of your race-based success guilt-

    A white womens “accountability” group! No, you don’t have to sign over the deed to your homes or give away your 401k, just hold hands and talk about it before going to social media and virtue signaling inappropriately under posts in the “comedy” genre….


    See for yourself folks, you can’t make this stuff up!

    Sorry ladies, but I won’t be attending. I am perfectly ok accepting and appreciating the modern comforts and state of society I currently enjoy- provided in most cases by generations of hardworking and industrious WHITE men.

  10. The citizens of Burlington by virtue of their duly elected, progressive,city council have created a utopia of their own design. I don’t recall the last time I set foot there, and it’s very unlikely to happen any time soon. Alternatively, my wife and I spend about $500 a weekend of fuel, food, lodging and supplies pursuing interests elsewhere. Let the city rot in a cesspool of God’s more detestable creatures.

  11. I can just see how the store owners will find themselves in hot water as they try to determine if the person outside ringing the bell looks like a potential threat or not. Just how does one do this anyway?

    • If they’re packing then they can quickly mitigate any issues regarding having initially misjudged the person at the door. A client of mines in downtown Burl told me about confronting someone who had just stolen merchandise, they told him they had a gun. I don’t own a storefront business, but if I did…my response would have been “really? So do I, let me show you!” I then would pulled my very small, compact, but cannon of a weapon and given him the opportunity to show me theirs…right before the pi$$ed their pants prior to running out the door. Grrrrrrr!

  12. Preferential treatment for which clients get to come into a store. Funny how all this Progressivism winds up being discriminatory and anti-free market. This happens exactly in such a way during communism, if you have anything valuable to sell to anyone. It only gets sold to the special customer and not during regular business hours to the public.

  13. When you have a “President” defying a Supreme Court order, and a New York congresswoman (squad member AOC) urging him to do so, it should be more than obvious to a rational person on the direction this country is heading. The battle of good versus evil is on. Vote wisely. Imagine the democrats trying to censor RFK at a hearing? Constitution is on the chopping block.

  14. Eastern California and Northern Massachusetts. Best way to shop these days is order on-line and sit on your porch with a shotgun so porch pirates don’t steal your stuff. Go food shopping using the buddy system so your purse isn’t robbed in the store and your car and groceries aren’t robbed in the parking field. Progressive utopia until the progressives start getting robbed themselves.

  15. Sarah George, huh? Maybe it’s time to look into all those freebie ballots floating around Burlington due to default mail-in voting and transient student populations. I still get ballots for housemates from ten years ago who moved out of state.

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