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Burlington mayor Jim Butler orders police to tackle problems on Rainey Street

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Public complaints about blight and illegal activity along Burlington’s Rainey Street have apparently grabbed the attention of the city’s top-ranking elected official.

During a city council meeting last Tuesday, mayor Jim Butler suggested that the city’s police force and code enforcement staff should address the reports that he’s personally received from residents about crime and dilapidation along this particular road.

“This is our community,” he declared at the end of that evening’s proceedings. “We owe the level of service that our citizens have ask us for, and that’s the basic needs of cleanliness and police protection.”

Butler went on to note that his own investigations have more or less confirmed the public’s complaints about code violations along Rainey Street’s 300 block, which he insisted are even worse than his tipsters portrayed them. The mayor’s observations were later echoed by councilmember Kathy Hykes, who acknowledged that she, too, has gone out to gauge conditions in this part of the city.

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“I noticed the same thing – a couple of boarded up places and cars that were disabled,” she recalled during last Tuesday’s council meeting. “We wouldn’t be happy about that in any neighborhood.”

In addition to these specific concerns about Rainey Street, Butler expressed some more general alarm over gun violence in Burlington. In order to better equip the police department to deal with these incidents, he proposed that the council should consider investing in a new high-tech system that can pin down the exact locations of gunshots when they erupt anywhere in the city’s municipal limits.

In the meantime, Butler called on Burlington’s police chief Brian Long to share some good news about a manpower shortage that has recently gripped the city’s police force.

Over the past year or so, Long and his colleagues have floated several measures to relieve this staffing crisis – including an across-the-board pay-raise of nearly $9,000 that the council agreed to extend to all of the city’s police officers this past November. According to the city’s police chief, these assorted responses appear to be turning the tide in his agency’s ongoing efforts to attract the best and the brightest.

During last Tuesday’s council meeting, Long reported that he recently expanded his payroll by 32 officers – including 4 lateral hires from other law enforcement agencies. Long added that the remaining 28 newcomers are either in field training or taking classes in basic law enforcement – while 5 other prospects may be on the verge of making a similar commitment to work for his agency.

“Our retention also seems to be headed the right way,” the city’s police chief went on to assure the council. “So, all indications are positive.”

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