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Vermont’s largest city sees 5 homicides, most since 1960

The five homicides committed in Burlington this year are the most since 1960 and the number of killings in those two years could tie the most ever reported in Vermont’s largest city in one year, the city’s police chief says.

Burlington police are investigating the city’s fifth homicide in 2022, a stabbing death that took place early Sunday.

Department records suggest the five homicides reported this year and in 1960 could be the most ever, Acting Police Chief Jon Murad said in an email. Because the department’s older records are incomplete, he said he couldn’t be sure.

There were no homicides reported in Burlington in 2021 and one in 2020. Between 2012 and 2021 the city averaged one homicide a year, with several years seeing none.

The killings come as the city is also coping with an increase in shootings, some fatal or involving injuries. As of Nov. 15, the city had reported 25 gunfire incidents this year, compared to 13 in 2021 and 11 in 2020. In 2017, there was one.

Many of the shootings reported in the city from 2020 until June when city officials held a news conference to outline their response, involved “a recurring group of individuals as perpetrators, associated individuals or victims,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said at the time.

The killings and shootings come as the city’s police department tries to rebuild its staffing levels. In 2020, the City Council passed a resolution directing the department to reduce its maximum number of officers through attrition from 105 to 74.

Last year, the City Council authorized the department to increase its staffing level to an effective number of 87, but Murad said at the time that it will take years to rebuild the department. As of Nov. 15, Burlington had 62 officers.

The most recent killing came early Sunday when Abubakar Sharrif, 23, was stabbed at a Main Street restaurant. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

No arrests have been made. It was the first killing this year that did not involve gunfire.

Murad said that of the 15 killings in the city since 2012, nine involved firearms.

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