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Understaffed Burlington cops unable to respond to 3 AM vandalism; two hours later perp broke 33 wind

Due to shortstaffing caused by attrition and City Council defunding, Burlington police were unable to respond to a property crime committed shortly after 3 AM Tuesday morning. About two hours later, the man later identified as the suspect in the 3 AM crime smashed 33 windows and terrorized residents on two Burlington streets.

The following is the Burlington Police Dept. report released yesterday:

On August 9, at about 5 AM, the Burlington Police Dispatch Center began to receive a large number of 9-1-1 calls in quick succession. Callers described a male suspect throwing objects through multiple residential windows in the area of Golden Place and Locust Terrace.

In total, it is estimated that more than twenty 9-1-1 calls were received within a short duration of time, which overwhelmed the two-person call center. Although the midnight shift had only one non-supervisory officer on duty, the in-progress nature and high volume of these incidents caused the on-duty supervisor to override the BPD’s Modified Priority Response Plan. (Under the Priority Response Plan, implemented in May 2021 and revised in May 2022, vandalism is a Priority 3 call that is diverted to online reporting. Prior to May 2021, all calls for service received in-person response, absent extenuating circumstances.)

As the officer and supervisor responded to the scene, dispatch continued to receive 9-1-1 calls reporting the suspect smashing windows. Residents exited their homes to follow the suspect as he walked down the street, leaving a swath of destruction in his wake. Officers made contact with the suspect in the area of Charlotte Street as he threw a flowerpot through a window.

The suspect was taken into custody without further incident. The suspect was identified as Mbyayenge “Robbie” Mafuta, 21. He is known to police from voluminous prior law enforcement encounters. He has previously been arrested for feloniously assaulting officers, for stealing an occupied vehicle and robbing the occupant—which would commonly be called a carjacking, although our state does not have such a charge—and for burglaries, thefts, vandalism complaints, and trespassing complaints.

Preliminary investigation has revealed approximately 33 residential houses were damaged, many of which had large picture windows shattered. Officers were told that dangerous objects were thrown through windows into rooms where people, including children, were sleeping. Many victims expressed significant fear, recounting that they did not know if someone was attempting to break into their homes. Damage estimates are still being gathered, but preliminary estimates suggests that the aggregate amount will potentially be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Officers interviewed witnesses who identified Mr. Mafuta as the author of this damage.

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