In addressing a series of questions about rising crime in Vermont during his weekly press conference, Gov. Phil Scott made clear that he stands with police and views the “defund the police” movement as part of the problem.
The press conference, which was largely dedicated to Vermont’s mental health resources for those in need of help, veered into the issue of law enforcement and rising crime.
“In the last couple of years we talked a lot about defunding the police, focusing on the worst actors within that profession, and I think it’s no wonder that we are in the situation we are in right now,” Scott said.
The state has seen an uptick in crime this year, and especially in Burlington, which reduced its police officers by about 30% after a post-George Floyd effort by the City Council’s progressive members to defund the force and redirect funding to social workers.
Scott suggested that illicit drug activity is also responsible for driving up criminal activity.
“Some of it is in a mental health crisis, but I would say the majority is in illicit drug activity,” the governor said. “That’s where we’re seeing most of the problems, and that’s what we’re seeing through Vermont and throughout the nation. It’s something that we’re focused on and we’re doing the best we can.”
Scott added that law enforcement has a tough job because fighting drug-related crime requires a broader investigation into finding drug traffickers.
“Building these cases isn’t something that happens overnight — it takes a long period of time to gather all the information to make sure that we are getting to the root of the problem,” he said. “It’s not the selling or the buying of drugs on the street that is the issue; it’s how the system is working, where is it coming from, and how do we cut off that source.”
Many of the governor’s updates Tuesday were related to promoting the state’s mental health resources.