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Burlington Residents Meet to Talk Crime

Jason Parrott
Attendees broke into small groups for more personal discussions about crime in Burlington

About 50 people met at the Loft in downtown Burlington Monday night for a community forum on crime. The meeting was prompted in part by a seven-day span this month in which two people were killed and two others injured in three separate shootings.

Melissa Bracht-Wagner helped organize the forum and served as moderator. She is the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Burlington. Bracht-Wagner said this was the first of what she hopes will be a series of meetings aimed at getting to the heart of what people can do to help decrease crime in the city.

“We can’t just say it’s the police’s job or the mayor’s job,” said Bracht-Wagner. “As a community, if we are going to make a positive difference, we have to stand hand-in-hand and do something together.”

At the start of the meeting, attendees heard from Mayor Shane McCampbell, Police Chief Dennis Kramer, and others before breaking into small groups. Each group was given a list of questions to answer and discuss.

The questions included:

  • What is the most significant factor driving crime?
  • What are the best methods to prevent crime?
  • How can citizens help reduce or prevent crime?

Bracht-Wagner said the answers from each table were collected and will be reviewed by organizers. She said common themes and ideas generated from the answers will be explored during the next community forum, which is scheduled for mid-October.
“In reality, each and every one of us can do something today, tomorrow, and beyond,” said Bracht-Wagner.

Additional Thoughts from Meeting

Burlington Mayor Shane McCampbell

“We are all here because of the recent violent crime in our community and we are not happy about it. We live in a world today where people do not know how to communicate with each other and work out their problems.”

“We have had some cloudy days here in Burlington and we need some sunshine. As a mayor and as a city council, we cannot do anything about this. But as a community, we can.”

Burlington Police Chief Dennis Kramer

“This effort, to keep crime out of our community, not just the violent crime, but all crime, is an opportunity for the community to help us. [The BPD] cannot do this by ourselves.”

“[The BPD tries] to deter crime as much as we can. Sometimes it feels we are reactive more than proactive. We do our best to get out there and try to prevent crime. Sometimes, it just comes back to we have to serve the calls that come in.”

Sunnyside Elementary Principal Tim Bolander

“One of the biggest issues we face as a school district right now is declining enrollment. And it’s directly related to some of the crime we are experiencing. I had a family leave last week. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ She said the shootings are happening right on their street so they moved out of town.”

“It is impacting us as a school district. A little girl had a bullet go through her bedroom. Students like that come to school with trauma.”

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.