Burlington residents can expect to see city police walking the streets more often, starting May 1.
Almost all officers, from new recruits to veterans, will do regular foot patrols on some of their shifts in an effort to build community relations and discourage both serious and minor street crime.
The focus will be on the Old North End and downtown, especially along Cherry Street near the Rite Aid drug store. During the last year, that area has generated “hundreds of 911 calls” and complaints about public intoxication, public urination, aggressive panhandling and explicit comments being made to passersby, according to Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo.
“It’s drinking to the point of intoxication without consequence,” the chief told Burlington police commissioners at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.
Officers have issued many summonses for minor violations on the Cherry Street block between Church Street and South Winooski Avenue, but they are mostly ignored, del Pozo said.
The new foot patrol program will be more than just a 10- or 20-minute stroll, del Pozo said. He wants police to spend most of a full shift hoofing it.
“I’m talking, ‘Welcome to work.’ I’m going to North Street, and I’m getting” out of the cruiser for “six hours until my feet hurt,” del Pozo said.
Officers have already stepped up their foot patrols in some parts of the city, including North Street. Del Pozo said he’s received a good response.
“I get such relentless positive feedback about an officer just walking the beat.... It forces the officers to face citizens and have conversations with them.”
But not all the residents who have noticed the increase in patrols like them. Police Commission Chair Sarah Kenney said she’s already heard complaints from people who say the patrols make them feel that their neighborhoods are “getting targeted.”
Kenney said she supports the increased foot patrols, but wants police to pay attention to the community’s response.