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The Burlington and Winooski police departments and the Vermont State Police are among the members of a new Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force, according to an announcement on Wednesday. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Several Chittenden County law enforcement departments are teaming up with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies to address a rise in gun violence. 

In a press release Wednesday, the bureau announced the formation of a new Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force, which includes police departments in Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, Milton, Colchester, Essex, Williston and Shelburne, as well as the Vermont State Police. 

Local police will work with federal entities including Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The partner agencies are looking to combine resources and share investigative techniques to respond to gun violence proactively by identifying trends, according to the release.

“When would-be perpetrators know that consequences are real, it will have an effect on the rate of incidence,” acting Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad said via email. 

The task force will focus on individuals “who are actively involved in, or associated with, firearm-related violence,” according to the release. Murad said that definition can include people arrested on suspicion of, or charged with, gun violence as well as people who are convicted but not currently jailed.

From 2012 to 2019, Burlington averaged two episodes of gunfire per year. Twelve were reported in 2020 and an unprecedented 23 have been reported so far in 2022.

In August, an ATF investigation resulted in the indictment of two men from Burlington and Essex Junction, one of whom was subsequently arrested by Burlington police for alleged involvement in a gunfire exchange.  

“We know that collaboration is an extremely effective tool in the fight against violent crime, and we have already started to see tangible results in Burlington,” James Ferguson, a special agent in charge of the ATF Boston Field Division, said in the release.

Officials noted in the release that “many other” Chittenden County communities have also experienced a rise in incidents involving firearms.

The ATF’s Burlington field office will now have the capacity to conduct automated ballistics evaluations to assist the task force’s investigations, according to the release.

Other members of the task force include the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont and the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office.

In the press release, Murad said priorities include identifying offenders, tracking trends and developing intelligence, and following up on gun-violence cases after an arrest to “get prosecutor feedback about what’s making strong cases.”

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Federal and local law enforcement form Chittenden County Gun Violence Task Force

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