Thursday May 02, 2013
The celebratory Police Recognition Dinner and Awards Ceremony sponsored by South Burlington Rotary on April 14 revealed that drug related crime has become a serious issue in South Burlington, as it has in other areas of Vermont. The South Burlington police devoted much time and effort during this past year on drug related cases. About 30% of the awards were given for apprehension of drugs and drug dealers. Chief Trevor Whipple stated that the South Burlington Police Department has been working with and will continue to partner with government agencies to identify, arrest and hold accountable anyone involved in drug related activities in the community. Of five drug connected incidents for which police action was honored, four involved heroin possession.
At a news conference at the Federal Building in Burlington on the day following the awards ceremony, US Attorney Tristram Coffin announced that local, state and federal forces have joined together to fight the increased heroin traffic and usage in Vermont. According to Sam Hemingway in the April 16th issue of the Burlington Free Press, Coffin came on strong in his warnings to drug dealers who might think that Vermont would be an easy and lucrative place to set up shop. At the same conference, Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling said that community impact teams comprised of federal agents and local police will monitor known drug trafficking areas. “Every conceivable resource [...] will be brought to bear on this problem.” He tied heroin and cocaine usage to increased property crimes and violence.
The track record of Whipple’s team during the past year indicates that South Burlington’s police force has been attentive, alert and active in combating drugs with support from state and federal resources. Both street drugs and prescription drug abuse have drawn the attention of authorities.
At last year’s awards dinner, Governor Peter Shumlin had voiced his support of legislation that would allow police quick access to the Health Department’s Vermont Prescription Drug Monitoring System. In remarks earlier in 2012, Shumlin stated that he aimed to give “law enforcement the tools they need to track down abusive access so we can fight our prescription drug epidemic. This growing problem is so frightening because while FDA-approved prescription opiates are easy to get, many are just as addicting and dangerous as street heroin and crack cocaine.” Controversial legislation has been under consideration in the Vermont Senate this month. Since the reason the original prescription drug database was created several years ago was to help providers and pharmacists manage patient treatment, there are concerns among some that privacy rights would be invaded if police had access to all the personal information in the database. A compromise bill is being considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow police to access only the name, age and address of patients who they believe may be diverting prescription drugs for illegal use, as well as access to the name and address of the pharmacy and doctors where patients access certain scheduled drugs, such as opiates.
The dedication of the South Burlington Police Department was evident at the awards ceremony, and the message came across loud and clear: Residents of South Burlington can be confident that their Police Department will continue to work hard to keep the community safe.
SOURCE: Lois Price, Contributor