(Host) A federal grand jury in Rutland has handed up more than 50 drug indictments in the last six months.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) For most of the last two years, anyone in Vermont who had business before a grand jury had to go to Burlington. That meant a long drive for law enforcement officers in Southern Vermont seeking federal indictments against accused drug traffickers. Now they can take their information to a grand jury impaneled since March in Rutland, where much of the attention on the state’s increasing drug problem has been focused.
(Peter Hall) “We’ve all become acutely aware over the past several years of a burgeoning problem, particularly with heroin and certainly an ongoing problem with crack cocaine.”
(Zind) Peter Hall is the United States Attorney for Vermont. Hall says the grand jury can consider any number of federal charges, but over 80% of the indictments handed up by this grand jury have been drug related. One of the areas the grand jury has concentrated on is interstate drug trafficking.
(Hall) “Well, I will say a number of the cases that have been indicted by federal grand juries both in Rutland and Burlington certainly involve people who have been operating interstate.”
(Zind) Southern Vermont law enforcement officials say having a grand jury at their end of the state brings important resources within easier reach. Anthony Bossi is Rutland’s police chief:
(Bossi) “The federal government can reach farther across state lines. And then it helps with the state resources because we can send a lot of the local dealers through the state system so it allows us to move the drug cases through two systems.”
(Zind) Bossi says the work of the grand jury combined with additional law enforcement officers in Rutland, a neighborhood policing program and school prevention efforts is making a difference in Rutland.
(Bossi) “We’re finding that it’s harder to buy drugs in the Rutland area and the price is going up. And when the price goes up and it’s harder to make arrests as time goes on, we know that they’re moving around more, moving to different parts of the state.”
(Zind) Bossi says in the past fiscal year, his department doubled the number of drug cases it opened up compared to the previous year. He says in the future he hopes government will post federal agents in Rutland to help with investigation of drug crimes. Currently agents are assigned to Burlington.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.