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The Rutland Herald - Candidates Vie for Traction on Drug Crimes

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The Rutland Herald - Candidates Vie for Traction on Drug Crimes

Brent Curtis

The future role of the state's police force promises to be a big factor in the state's drug interdiction efforts.

Symington said she would like to see the Vermont State Police, which coordinates a Drug Task Force with other law enforcement agencies around the state, have more opportunities to work on drug investigations.

"They need to be able to focus on crimes like these and that may mean letting go of more minor crimes that other agencies could handle," she said.

While acknowledging that out-of-state drug dealers have been increasingly active in Vermont's cities and towns, Douglas said law enforcement has responded to communities in need during his administration.

Late last year, more than 25 suspected drug dealers were arrested in Barre during "Operation Granite Streets." Following a fatal drug-related shooting on Grove Street in Rutland, state and local police along with federal law enforcement conducted "Operation Marble Valley" - a series of drug raids that netted more than 40 suspected drug dealers.

"When communities call like Barre and Rutland, we're prepared to respond," Douglas said. "Vermonters expect us to be tough on drug dealers and I believe we have been."

The governor also pointed to the Drug Education, Treatment, Enforcement and Rehabilitation Program (DETER) and the Heroin Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) he started in 2003 as examples of his efforts to both enforce the state's drug laws and provide for prevention and treatment options in the state.

But Pollina said that while the governor has a knack for coming up with programs with memorable acronyms, he hasn't gotten at the issues creating a lucrative drug market in Vermont in the first place.

"Dealing with crime, especially drug-related crime, means lifting people out of poverty," Pollina said. "We've lost a lot of jobs, yet I still hear the governor using phrases like 'continued prosperity' when talking about the future. Jim Douglas and I must live in different Vermonts."

Symington was also critical of Douglas for not getting to the "root cause" of a drug problem that she said had more to do with the lack of economic options than with the availability of drugs.

"We need to give people a path to higher education and jobs," she said. "Right now, people don't see a path. They don't have a governor who's taking steps to create jobs and nine out of 10 jobs that are created are low-wage jobs."

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