Police say drugs are root of spike in violent crime

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(Host) An increase in violent crime is threatening Vermont’s safety and quality of life, according to the director of the Vermont State Police.

Colonel James Baker says that while Vermont is still the safest state in the U.S., the atmosphere is changing.  Baker says illegal drugs are at the root of the problem.

(Baker) "You have this element of the drugs that are coming from source cities, be it New York City or Springfield Mass. Or other source cities where organized criminal groups are involved in marketing this substance… what used to be our people traveling to those source cities to pick up the drugs – the heroin addict would travel to Holyoke and buy heroin- those folks are now coming to Vermont. They bring with them a culture of violence that we’ve never seen before and that’s where the threat to the quality of life lies for us, and I believe that’s the challenge we face."

(Host) Baker says organized criminals from Canada are using motorcycle gangs to move hydroponic marijuana throughout the state. Vermont police are also seeing enormous problems with illegal pharmaceuticals, especially oxycontin.

This comes at a time when Baker says all law enforcement agencies in the state are understaffed. 

(Baker) "The local police departments are carrying around 60 vacancies. The state police are carrying somewhere around 20 vacancies. And some of that’s attributed to financial reasons. But in many cases it’s about recruiting and the inability to find qualified individuals."

(Host) Baker says modern-day police candidates need computer and problem solving skills-skills that can earn them higher salaries in other industries.

Baker says the state has already started talking about long-term solutions to these problems. Meanwhile, he says police are working on short-term strategies to combat crime more effectively with the resources they have.

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