02.18.08

Leahy Announces $1 M. For Vermont Drug Task Force

. . . New Funds Will Support Anti-Drug/Anti-Crime Initiatives

MONTPELIER, Vt. (Monday, Feb. 18) – Senator Patrick Leahy announced Monday that he has secured $1 million in new U.S. Justice Department funds that the Vermont Drug Task Force will use to combat increased drug activity in Vermont. Leahy made the announcement at the Montpelier Police Department, joined by Vermont Bureau of Criminal Investigation Commander Major Tom L’Esperance and other law enforcement officials.

Like other states, Vermont in recent years has faced a marked increase in marijuana, heroin and cocaine production, use and trafficking, as well as the occasional appearance of methamphetamine. The Task Force, which is the only one of its kind in Vermont, has led successful investigations to disrupt and dismantle trafficking networks that have brought illegal drugs into and through the state. In recent years, drug-related arrests and people seeking treatment for drug use in Vermont have more than doubled. State health officials estimate the number of Vermonters currently under treatment for heroin at around 1000, estimated to be only a fraction of the number of people actually using the drug. The Task Force – which, through the partnership with Leahy, has received federal funding since 2001 – has successfully worked with state and local law enforcement officers to address drug activity in Vermont.

“The Task Force has focused and magnified our efforts to identify drug dealers and to counter the inroads that drug traffickers make across our borders and in our communities,” said Leahy. “Before the Task Force, Vermont lacked a plan to deal with these problems, and the scattershot approach proved no match for the concerted efforts of drug rings to expand their activities here. As we saw last year in Barre and recently in Rutland, combating drug trafficking is tough, slogging police work, and the results are not immediately seen. But the efforts of the partnerships forged by the Task Force to combat these activities are among the most successful in the region.”

Monday’s announcement builds on the partnership Leahy has forged with the Task Force since its inception. Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees federal anti-crime and anti-drug programs. Leahy also is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, which sets the annual budget for federal anti-drug programs. He has secured more than $7.25 million since 2001 in direct funding to help Vermont address rising drug use and drug-related crime. Without additional funds, the Task Force would not be able to continue its stepped up efforts in combating heroin, marijuana and cocaine abuse, as well as the presence of methamphetamine.

The latest federal resources will allow for the continued funding for Vermont State Police troopers within the Task Force and maintain drug chemists within the Vermont Forensic Laboratory. The new funds also will allow the Task Force to continue to support additional undercover state troopers and municipal officers, an additional drug prosecutor, a civilian drug intelligence analyst, and a business administrator. The Task Force also works closely with intervention and treatment programs, corrections and court officials, and with prosecutors to reduce substance abuse in Vermont.

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