Police officers knocked on doors Wednesday afternoon to talk to citizens about illegal drugs in their neighborhoods.
These initiated conversations were part of the police force’s renewed effort to reduce drug use and related crimes.
“You want to gain information about any possible criminal activity and you want to send a message,” Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said Thursday. “There are people out there who are suffering from drug addiction who we want to help. But at the same time, if people are out there selling heroin, cocaine, hard drugs, we’re going to prosecute you.”
Burlington police spearheaded the knock and talk accompanied by state and federal law enforcement agencies. They handed out nearly 500 letters that explained their tactics, urged citizens to call in tips and implored folks involved in illegal drug activity to get out and seek help.
“IF YOU ARE OR HAVE BEEN INVOLVED in crime or drug dealing or are addicted to narcotics and want it to stop DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL FOR HELP,” read part of the two-page letter, which used all capital letters for emphasis.
People in search of such help, it suggested, could call the Street Outreach Team, a group staffed by HowardCenter employees who work with, but are not, police officers.
The letter also warned folks willingly involved in illegal drug activity to brace for prosecution in both state and federal courts.
“If you bring drugs into Vermont from out of state, the full resources of the federal justice system will be brought to bear,” it states.
Burlington police have reached out to citizens before, but not like they did Wednesday afternoon, according to Deputy Police Chief Andi Higbee.
“Nothing to this extent where it involved the number of organizations and agencies that were involved,” Higbee said of the effort.
The letter distributed Tuesday was signed by Burlington Police Chief Mike Schirling, Donovan, Attorney General Bill Sorrell and U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin.
July 11, 2013
Matt Ryan | Free Press Staff Writer
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