by Peter Freyne
Gov. Jim Douglas said Thursday that the Public Safety Department under Commissioner Kerry Sleeper has been working with the Vermont Grocers' Association, providing guidance to grocers in dealing with the spike in armed robberies at Vermont mom-and-pop stores.
In recent weeks, Douglas said, there have been 18 armed robberies at convenience stores across Vermont. It’s something we need to take "very seriously."
“The problem, as you know, is drugs,” said Gov. Douglas. “In many of these cases, I think it’s fair to say most of them, the suspects are apparently going after money to feed their drug habits. In some cases it’s illegal drugs. It may be heroin or crack cocaine. In other cases, it’s prescription drugs that they’re seeking to abuse. That’s the bottom line in a lot of these cases and it just shows how important it is we take the drug problem in our state very seriously.”
But some, like Windsor County States Attorney Robert Sand, say it’s the current law-and-order approach to drugs that is the fundamental problem. Sand, the son of a federal judge, has been a prosecutor for 15 years.
In a recent op-ed in the Times Argus, Prosecutor Sand wrote:
“As a career prosecutor, I see strong indications that our enforcement model may actually be counterproductive to public and personal safety. Violence spawned by the war on drugs continues to plague our communities. Violence exists in the form of assaults and murder by drug sellers as a result of deals gone awry or territorial disputes. We see violence in the form of robberies and burglaries by users stealing money or guns to purchase or trade for drugs. And, to a much lesser extent, we see random violence caused by drug-impaired people unwilling or unable to control their behavior. Drug policy reform, to include regulated access to drugs, could substantially reduce all three types of drug crimes.”
“Prohibition does not work,” Sand told the Rutland Herald's Susan Smallheer. “We should have learned that with alcohol”. It’s time “to rethink our drug laws,” says the States Attorney.
Says the governor?
“I don’t agree with that,” Douglas told reporters. “I think it’s important for the safety of our public and their health that we continue to maintain restrictions on illegal drugs. As you can see we’ve taken it very seriously with the round-up in Barre, the St. Albans bar raid, recently. We’re doing as much as we can. The Department of Public Safety is doing a good job.”
But, Governor, don’t more arrests only prove how the "drug problem" has gotten worse under current policy, not better?
Our jails are full.
We already have to ship out-of-state.
"Inmates," that is.
*STATEHOUSE JOKE OF THE DAY:
The Senate President Pro Tem, the one and only Peter Shumlin was not in the building Thursday. Putney Pete's said to be in New York City on personal business for two days.
You know what that meant, don't you?
With Shumlin out-of-state, Jim Douglas was acting governor!