Police Urge Caution Increased Theft and Drug Overdoses Reported

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Thursday November 07, 2013

Police Chief Trevor Whipple was present at the November 4 City Council meeting to make both the Council and the public aware of suspicious activity, recent drug overdoses and increased electronic device theft in South Burlington. “I don’t want to ring fear in the community,” Whipple said, “just awareness.”

During the weekend of November 3, 2013 the South Burlington Police Department responded to multiple heroin overdoses occurring within the City of South Burlington. An unresponsive 23 year old male was discovered in the University Mall parking lot on Friday. A citizen called 911 and EMS provided assistance.  

Police responded to a call on Sunday reporting a young male in distress in a public restroom at the Sheraton Hotel. The subjects displayed the same conditions and were transported to FAHC, where a total of five individuals were treated over the course of the weekend for the same symptoms. It has been determined that the tainted drugs are heroin based, but are also testing positive for amphetamines.

“Heroin providers are very proud of their product and like to put their unique stamp on it,” Chief Whipple explained. “These particular drugs are in unmarked wax glassine bags sealed with scotch tape. The problems come in when someone takes the normal amount of a substance they use to give them the feeling they’re used to… without realizing it’s mixed with another drug.” Whipple urged individuals to “seek help, seek treatment. Don’t do heroin and if you do, know your source.”   

Councilor Greco inquired as to what level the problem had reached in South Burlington. Whipple said, “We’re not yet overrun and the level of crime is almost entirely property crime. We’re still on the lower to moderate end of this problem, but it is on the up-tick. We’re not going to arrest ourselves out of this problem. We need to make people aware of the resources available and it’s not just us, it’s all of Vermont, the country, it’s a nationwide problem that’s multifaceted.”

One dimension that could be potentially linked to increased drug use is the rise in the number of cell phones, tablets, and mp3 players being reported stolen and sold for quick cash.  Last year, during the same period of time, the SBPD had one phone reported stolen, this year the number has reached 22.  Just last week, the Department had 5 stolen devices removed from a new machine in the mall called an Eco ATM that accepts electronic devices and spits out cash. The Eco ATM makes attempts to identify the individual trying to sell a device through cameras, an interview, and a thumbprint mark that verifies he/she owns the device being sold. The San Diego company that runs Eco ATM says only ½ of 1% of devices collected are stolen, however the SBPD has found the number to be closer to 10%. 

Whipple explained that the best way to be protected is to get to know your device, and to keep records which can be used to trace it in the event of theft.  Call your service provider (Verizon, AT & T, etc) to retrieve your International Mobile Station Equipment Identity ( IMEI) number and record it along with the item’s serial number. You can retrieve your iTunes serial number by connecting to iTunes and clicking the help option. For your phone, a GPS application can be used to locate the phone (“Find my iPhone” for Apple devices and “Where’s my Droid?” for Android devices.)  Other apps allow you to lock or wipe clean your stolen device remotely  from another internet connection. 

Many of these precautions should take place before a theft occurs and can help law enforcement get the device back. The use of GPS applications has helped law enforcement not only locate the device, but in some instances, the person who stole it. If residents own a smartphone or tablet, they are being encouraged to install a location app. 

Additionally, South Burlington Police have recently received complaints of people going door to door claiming to be landscapers willing to rake leaves or do other work. These individuals are suspected of “casing” homes which appear to be unoccupied. SBPD is encouraging residents to be aware of suspicious activity and to call the police if they see these individuals in their neighborhoods.

Residents are urged  to use caution and good judgement.  Lock your doors when you are inside your home, and when you leave your house.   Keep electronics out of your car, and keep cars locked.  

Whipple doesn’t want neighbors fearing neighbors.” Take a little extra precaution, be aware, but don’t be frightened,” Whipple said.  

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent