Don’t let crime epidemic spread from Burlington

Burlington detectives have confirmed the third suspect in the July 31 shooting on South Winooski Avenue to be Walter Hamiid Jones, 25. Police say Jones is a documented Bloods gang member out of Massachusetts. There is a warrant for his arrest on charges of aggravated assault. A review of Jones’s criminal history shows an extensive violent history in Massachusetts, including 14 convictions, among them home invasion, armed robberies with a handgun, assaults with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, and cocaine distribution. He has pending charges in Massachusetts for cocaine trafficking, heroin trafficking, and firearms charges.

by Don Keelan

I intended to write about the five Massachusetts cities that plan to ban propane gas for heating and cooking until I read about what is happening in Vermont’s premiere city, Burlington.

Don Keelan

A few weeks ago, several more gun shootings were reported in the City. One of the incidents was so wild that even the WCAX-TV news editor noted that the video footage was upsetting. Sure was: three individuals shooting at one another at a gas station.

That was not the only shooting that weekend, and today, the number of gun violence events in Burlington far exceeds the average for the prior five years.

On the heels of this news, L.L.Bean announced it is leaving downtown Burlington and relocating its flagship store to Williston. The principal rationale was that its Burlington store had one of the country’s highest incidents of retail theft. The reasoning was the rise in homeless persons and drug-users looking to obtain funds.

The threat of violence in downtown Burlington is no longer just a perception. The downtown business sector’s association engaged a private security firm to escort late-night working staff to their cars or other means to get home safely.

If this is taking place in one of Vermont’s top tourist destinations, why not call the police? Therein lies the problem. There are few police officers left to call. The City’s governing council has eviscerated the Burlington Police Department.

Until recently, a police force of 104 is now down to 74 and will possibly head to 59 if those eligible to retire/resign do so, and chances are they will. Time will tell if the recent hiring of social/mental health workers to assist the police will be effective. Meanwhile, the shooting incidents continue.

Calling the Vermont State Police to help with the City’s violent crime increase is not a solution. That agency has its own issues in keeping the duty roster up to meet demand. With many Vermont towns requesting VSP, there are only so many troopers to provide additional coverage.

The August 8, 2021 edition of VTDigger noted, “In a statement to Vermont media, Acting U.S. Attorney for Vermont Jonathan A. Ophardt has voiced deep concern over the increase in violent crime and the decrease in law enforcement capacity in the state.”

I dislike seeing the military used to accomplish local and state government responsibilities. But, it is time for Burlington’s Mayor to request the Governor send the Vermont National Guard to Burlington and have it augment the City’s shrinking and overwhelmed police force.

The Mayor of Burlington and most members of the City’s Police Commission have asked for additional police officers: 8 more. At its August 9th meeting, the City Council voted not to increase the police force.

In the meantime, the “perfect storm” has arrived for Burlington: summer is here; the police are not around; the fall-out from illegal drug use is ever-present; the judicial system is backed-up, dealing with hundreds of cases from prior years; and fear is on the minds of many.

It is time for the Governor to address what is taking place in Burlington. Vermont has experienced one epidemic that took a heavy toll on its people, businesses, schools, and government. We don’t need another escaping from Burlington and spreading throughout the State.

I wish Burlington was free of its public safety crises. If so, I could then focus on what the WSJ reported on August 2: “Massachusetts is emerging as a key battleground in the U.S fight over whether to phase out natural gas for home cooking and heating with fears of unknown costs and unfamiliar technologies fueling much of the opposition to going all-electric.”

People of Burlington, take back your streets.

Categories: Commentary

9 replies »

  1. How is more police going to help reduce crime? Police are called after a crime has already been committed. See also the SCOTUS decision Castle Rock v Gonzales. Police are NOT required to protect us or our property. If we want to reduce crime, we need to reduce the reason people commit crimes: desperation. Desperation, and thus crime, is higher now because of the pandemic. We need affordable housing and health care, living wage jobs, and a robust support system for our aging population–not more police.

    • I’ve been poor and marginal most of my life. I have bizarre neuro-metabolic problems which have led to juxtapositions. Including exclusion from important opportunities. I believe that you are not incorrect, but more police are needed. That they arrive after the fact is a cliche’ and a fallacy.

      • Please elaborate. It’s a fact that historically, policing has focused on responding to and solving crimes. Downplay it with “cliche” but it is not a fallacy to state facts. And on this, their record is abysmal. Nationwide. Police solve only 2% of major crimes, as reported by the Bureau of Justice. Of felony arrests made only 2% end in convictions. Finally, correlation does not equal causation. Fewer police doesn’t necessarily mean more crime in a just and healthy society. We must look at the big picture and approach logically, including addressing an outdated, imbalanced justice system. Putting more police on the ground in response to higher crime rates is akin to treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

    • Being poor is not an excuse to break the law, Sam. Rich people committ as many crimes as poor people do. The main idea behind the police protecting us is that you might get caught. Today, crimnals can basically do what they want without fear of getting caught. It was the Crimnals that were pushing hard for defunding the police!!!!!!!

  2. I have been without housing twice in my life. I never stole or shoplifted.
    I have been falsely arrested and charged with attempted murder. The charges were later downgraded to “Violating a Noise Ordinance”. Yes, really. The police officer claimed I confessed, which I didn’t. We need reform. I still don’t believe we need to eliminate police. Nor do I believe that only 2% of serious crimes are solved or unsuccessfully prosecuted. Eliminating police will only lead to gangsterism and racketeering. Masses of people will be victimized.
    Also, I don’t hide behind pseudonyms.