Mayor&Rsquo;S Office

Downtown Public Safety and Activation Plan


Earlier this month, City Department Heads, Chief Murad, and I announced our Downtown Public Safety and Activation Plan for this summer. This initiative has been a collaborative, multi-departmental effort to assure that everyone feels welcome and safe in Burlington’s downtown.  

There are four major elements to this plan:

  1. A new policing plan;
  2. Creating additional downtown public safety resources;
  3. Expanding our capacity to help people in need; and
  4. Activating the downtown and waterfront with a record number of events.

This newsletter is focused on the policing and public safety parts of this plan. The full plan that was presented at our press conference is available here. Our next newsletter will focus on the more than 140 events happening throughout the City this summer.

New Policing Plan: The City Center Area

We have changed the way in which our officers are deployed to increase the presence of police officers in the downtown. Too often, last summer, we experienced disruptive, intimidating and even dangerous incidents in City Hall Park and on the Marketplace. With a declining number of officers, the City struggled to maintain a public safety presence in our downtown Incidents in City Hall Park forced some youth programming to be relocated. And even while we continued to enjoy a large number of visitors to our downtown, too many of those visitors and female employees of downtown businesses reported that they felt unsafe.

Because more than 50% of incidents take place downtown, we are concentrating the most of our resources in that area. This summer, two Police Officers and two Community Service Officers will be assigned to the new City Center Area (pictured below), which encompasses the downtown. Areas of proactive patrol and focus include the Church Street Marketplace, City Hall Park, the Fletcher Free Library, North Winooski Avenue, the Downtown Transit Center, and Elmwood Avenue.

Creating Additional Public Safety Resources

We are supplementing the police presence with new and expanded investments in numerous other public safety resources. Those resources include:

  • Community Service Officers: Respond to a variety of quality-of-life complaints. They can write municipal tickets to address issues around noise, animal control, and open containers. They also respond to non-investigative crashes and perform downtown foot patrols.
  • Beach and Parks Patrol: Works on the Marketplace, waterfront, bike path, and beaches and parks. They provide information to citizens and visitors, educate the public about City ordinances and rules, and help foster a safe, clean and healthy environment for all.
  • Urban Park Rangers: Help the City ensure our parks are welcoming to everyone by increasing the thoughtful and positive presence in our parks, utilizing tools of education to help our visitors understand our park system ordinances and expectations so that everyone can enjoy our public spaces. 

Expanding Our Capacity to Help People in Need

We are also expanding our capacity to offer help to people who need of support and services, including continuing to develop ways to work with people experiencing mental health challenges and homelessness.

  • Community Service Liaisons: In-house BPD social workers who focus on issues associated with mental health, substance use disorder, and homelessness. They often work on cases referred by Patrol or Street Outreach, and do follow-up that requires more time and additional resources. 
  • Street Outreach (Howard Center): Works with individuals in the downtown Burlington Business District who have mental health, substance use, homelessness, and unmet social service needs. The team helps to coordinate services for those individuals, and the primary goal is to increase access to services for all individuals. 

Rebuilding our Police Department

We are committed to making this plan work, but we may also encounter challenges because we currently have fewer officers than we need to provide the fully robust public safety response that Burlingtonians have come to expect from the Burlington Police Department. 

We are also working to rebuild our police department, and are seeking Council approval of a budget that would enable a comprehensive outreach plan to increases the Burlington Police Department from 66 officers to 85 officers over the next three years. The goal is ambitious but achievable if we successfully negotiate a competitive contract, attract new recruits with hiring incentives, and deliver a successful marketing campaign that sets Burlington apart from other communities.

Together, we are working to ensure Burlington’s downtown continues to be safe and welcoming to all.


Miro Weinberger