BURLINGTON – In response to a second downtown stabbing attack this year, the city of Burlington has acted quickly to decriminalize violent assault with a deadly weapon, downgrading it from a felony to a civil violation. The penalty for stabbing someone within the city limits will now be a $15 fine, which is seen by some as less severe than the previous penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $15,000.
“It was important for us to make this change,” said Burlington City Councilor Richard Deane. “Back when we had a lot of college students getting drunk and being disorderly, we used to arrest people for things like public drunkenness, public urination, street fighting, catcalling, and smoking marijuana. But the University of Vermont came to us and explained that enforcing laws actually hurts those that are breaking them, so we decriminalized all of those things and now our city is much safer for people who enjoying being disruptive and disrespectful. So now that we are seeing an increase in stabbings, it is only consistent that we also relax our position likewise.”
A Burlington police officer who wishes to remain anonymous suggested to The Winooski that perhaps if the aforementioned laws on drinking and fighting had not been decriminalized, the stabbings would be less likely to occur, but recognized that the officers can only enforce the existing laws, and cannot enforce the laws of the past or the laws they wish were in effect.
Burlington chief of police Brandon del Pozo came out to answer questions late Wednesday evening and was asked what he thought of the new policy. He responded by stabbing the reporter in the arm, handing the reporter fifteen dollars, and walking back into the police station.