Is the safety bubble bursting?

A third arrest has been made in a case regarding the stabbing of a 24-year-old male that took place on the corner of Brooks Avenue and North Williams Street on Sept. 6, according to a press release from the Burlington Police Department.

The press release states that Burlington police arrested the suspect, 16-year-old Ngodup Ponstang, on Sept. 9. The report also lists the victim of the stabbing as in stable condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington.

Prior to the arrest of Ponstang, the Burlington Police Department had arrested two other suspects they believed to be involved with the stabbing, according to a Burlington Police Department statement released to the public on Sept. 8.

The statement described the incident as a “fight between two groups of young people,” in which one person was stabbed and others involved were also injured.

In a separate written statement that was hand-delivered to neighborhood residents of the area, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling insisted that it was important to note there was no indication that the fight was related to gang activity.

Neither the victim nor any of the arrested suspects are students at the University of Vermont, according to University records.

“[The stabbing] was completely unrelated to the University of Vermont,” said UVM Acting Police Chief Lianne Tuomey, “though it happened in an area where there is this kind of ‘melding’ of University folks living with citizens and members of the Burlington community.”

Tuomey offered her advice to students concerned about the stabbing: “As a chief of police, or as a police officer, or as a community member, the advice would be the same. Make sure that you keep yourself safe, and don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.”

Is Burlington a violent city?

According the United States Census, the city of Burlington encompasses roughly six percent of Vermont’s total population.

In 2007, 14 percent of assault charges reported in Vermont occurred within Burlington city limits, according to Vermont Department of Public Safety’s Vermont Crime On-Line (VCON) Web site.

According to VCON, that is a rise of 11 percent since 2003, when only three percent of assault charges in Vermont were reported inside Burlington city limits. The data shows 461 Burlington assault charges reported in 2007, a stark contrast to the 123 reports filed in 2003.

As documented on the University Police Service’s web site, 22 assault charges were reported on campus in 2007, as opposed to the six assault charges reported in 2003.

Burlington has also shown an increase in reported sexual assaults, up to 26 reports in 2007 from three reports in 2003, according to the VCON Web site.

While violent crimes such as assault and sexual assault have been shown to be on the rise, the VCON website shows a significant decrease in non-violent crimes such as burglary and vandalism since 2003.

Despite the numbers, the city of Burlington is not considered to be a violent city by many of the students who attend the University of Vermont.

“Burlington isn’t a particularly violent city, probably less so than others,” said Senior Christopher Reckdenwald of North Union Street. “There are just too many petty crimes, such as theft.”

Junior Katie Lamb says she doesn’t feel any safer or less safe after moving from her dorm room on Redstone campus last year to College Street for the fall semester.

“It definitely feels like there may have been an increase [of violent crimes] in recent years, but I view a ‘violent city’ as one where there is someone being stabbed and mugged every week,” Lamb, a native Vermonter of St. Albans, said. “When Vermont residents hear of a stabbing or a murder there is a shock that takes over. I think if it were a violent city it would be more expected.”

Acting Chief of Police for UVM Police Services Lianne Tuomey said that she believes a campus can get swept up in the wake of a violent crime such as a stabbing or a homicide. “My perspective, being a police officer, is to have a professional understanding that those things can happen at any time,” said Tuomey. “Do we as the police or a public servant have an awareness of that? Absolutely.”