Burlington defunded its police department. You’ll never guess what happened next

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Burlington defunded its police department. You’ll never guess what happened next

Maybe it isn’t news that the liberal town that launched Bernie Sanders’s political career defunded its police department in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. And maybe it isn’t news that crime got worse in Burlington, Vermont, immediately after the police force was forced to cut jobs.

But the New York Times wrote a lengthy article documenting how crime has risen in the 45,000-person city since the City Council voted to cut the police force by 30%. The quotes from the otherwise liberal residents of the city are quite revealing.

“It has been traumatizing,” Democrat Julie Williams said, “to watch the city kind of fall apart before your eyes.” Williams graduated from the University of Vermont, which is in Burlington, 10 years ago and opened a bike shop in town.

Williams has had many bikes stolen, and one morning, after she noticed another bike missing, she hopped in her van and drove around town trying to find it. It didn’t take long before Williams spotted her bike in the open-air drug market of City Hall Park.

“That’s my bike,” Williams said to a man wearing athletic shorts and sandals. But the man simply ignored her and took the bike down a pedestrian-only street.

Williams’s story is not an isolated incident. Larceny is up 107% in 2022 compared to the pre-pandemic crime rate. And whereas some years ago, Burlington had zero gunfire incidents, there have been 25 of them this year, including four homicides.

Burlington’s trouble all started in June 2020 when its council voted to cut the police force from 100 to 74. The reduction was supposed to come slowly through retirements, but many officers said they weren’t “valued” and moved on to other opportunities. Now there are only 61 officers, but only 53 are active due to injuries and military service.

The City Council has since voted to increase the size of the police force to 87. But the city is having trouble attracting officers. “It’s a lot easier to break something than it is to put it back together,” Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger said of public safety in his city.

Public order is a lot more fragile than it looks. People’s lives will be ruined if the political will disappears to maintain it. It took some time, but it appears even the People’s Republic of Burlington is capable of learning at least this lesson.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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