Police increase weekend presence

Sirens and flashing lights fill the streets of downtown Burlington on Friday and Saturday nights, and to those who think it’s more common now than ever — they are absolutely right. On any given Friday or Saturday night, two extra Burlington police officers are on duty, plus alcohol team members looking for things like open containers, house parties and noise complaints, Detective Tom Chenette of the Burlington Police Department said. “I know police are usually more intense at the beginning of the school year — cruisers can be seen in every direction on a weekend night — but it seems as if things have changed,” sophomore Jen Attig said. “I’ve seen too many undercover cops for comfort. I’ve even seen the police in minivans and old cars with tinted windows. It’s scary how sneaky they’re trying to be, and how many of them there are.” Police are issuing noise and drinking tickets and locking down houses, Chenette said. “If people refuse to come out and choose to stay inside the house, then they will actually lock the house down and go for a warrant,” Chenette said. “If minors are then found to have been drinking inside, the owners of the house will be criminally cited for enabling minors to drink. On a [Stop Teen Alcohol Risk Team (START)] night, the host could end up with 10 cruisers at their house because they know that when there is one underage drinker, there’s a potential of 100 more.” Burlington has been working with START to stop underage drinking and now another organization has been added to this list. The Department of Liquor Patrol, a state agency, has moved to Burlington and is now working with the Burlington Police department, Chenette said. “Liquor Patrol jumped aboard because of the college population in this area,” Chenette said. “In Burlington it’s like fish in a barrel. They realized that if they come to Burlington, they could write 100 tickets a night as apposed to handing out only a few or so. They are issuing noise and drinking tickets and, in some cases, locking down houses.” The Burlington Police Department receives a federal grant each year to address underage drinking. The money is used for the overtime pay of officers who then patrol on weekend nights. It usually lasts 10-20 weekends, Chenette said. “We have an incredible number of tickets coming in here,” Executive Director of Chittenden County Court Diversion Andy Twite said. “Last year the START team got direction from state level regarding the use of their funding. They started going out every weekend and the amount of tickets coming in was crazy. We dealt with 1,006 tickets last year, our largest number ever.” Twite explained that things slowed down over the summer, but now that the school year is back in session, the numbers have begun to pile up once again. “Somewhere from 35-50 tickets have been received in the past two days, they have not been put into the system yet, but they continue to flow in,” he said. As far as the impact that these changes have had on student-police relations goes, Chenette said that they haven’t seen an impact in call rate. People are still calling if they need help.