MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Violent crime in the Green Mountain State is at the highest its been in the past decade. In addition to the increase in crime, the state is also dealing with a critical police shortage.
“There is no part of Vermont that is immune from this issue,” said Jon Ophardt, acting U.S. Attorney. Ophardt says between 2016 and 2019, the state has seen a 36% increase in situations involving a gun.
He says that robberies and burglaries are up statewide, too. “We’re seeing more violence associated with the drug trade, which is a particular concern,” Ophardt said. “Our office has a record number of drug-involved homicides being investigated.”
Ophardt says the U.S. Attorney’s Office has also noticed more violence stemming from people with mental health issues but the overarching problem is twofold. He said there are fewer officers capable of responding to these types of incidents, as the police force is dwindling. A new report shows out of Burlington’s 75 police officers, nearly half are seeking employment elsewhere.
“I think people just want out of the job,” said Williston’s police chief, Patrick Foley. “I think there’s a silent group out there that has a loud voice right now that has condemned us.”
Chief Foley says he hasn’t received an application to his department in more than a year. He adds that the onboarding process takes between a year and 18 months, so it could take years to fill the current shortages statewide.
Foley says the pressure on law enforcement only continues to mount. This week, we learned a 3rd and 4th officer who responded to the capitol riots in January, died by suicide.
“Police officers don’t like to talk about what they’re going through,” Chief Foley said. “In addition to suicide, divorce rates among law enforcement are up, too. We’ve got to get it out of the closed doors and into the public that there are serious issues for law enforcement.”