Vt police challenged by increase in illegal drug use

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Outgoing Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says the biggest challenge facing Vermont’s law enforcement community is curtailing the growing impact of illegal drugs.

Sleeper says additional state and or federal resources are going to be needed to successfully deal with the problem.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) After serving 30 years as a member of the Vermont State Police, Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper has announced that he’ll be stepping down from that post at the end of the year.

Sleeper is the first trooper to ever rise to the position of commissioner.

Speaking on VPRs Vermont Edition, Sleeper says the State Police are facing a lot of new challenges including responsibilities for Homeland Security and expanded law enforcement coverage in the more rural parts of the state.

But the biggest problem, according to Sleeper, is the threat posed by the increased use of illegal drugs:

(Sleeper) "The substance abuse problem has the potential of changing our state more significantly than any other issue that I’ve seen in my 30 years the challenge we’re facing is we have limited law enforcement resources and our state is being targeted by out of state organized dealers gangs if you want to call them we’re recognized as a lucrative market and with already limited law enforcement resources you need to re prioritize what you do have to deal with that growing concern."

Sleeper says illegal drug use is definitely linked to the rise of violent crime in Vermont:

(Sleeper) "It brings a new culture of violence into this state you have to remember that the people the dealers are coming from source cities where that culture of violence in order just to deal or stay alive is carrying a gun and threaten intimidation so when they come here to Vermont to deal they bring that culture with them we’re seeing it whether it’s in growing crimes stats are anecdotally if you read the newspaper very day with home invasions armed robberies aggravated assaults."

Sleeper is concerned that funding for several key federal drug enforcement programs has been cut in the past few years:

(Sleeper)"The secret is quite honestly is we’re going need additional resources whether those are federal resources in the sense of funding or federal officers or additional funding at the state level."

After he retires, Sleeper says he hopes work in Washington D.C., on a national project to boost federal funding for local and state law enforcement programs.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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