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State Police Arrest 35 In Franklin County Drug Sweep

State Police arrested 35 suspected drug dealers today in a large-scale sweep of Franklin County.

Announced just before 9 a.m., Operation Northern Lights targeted 50 drug dealers in and around St. Albans. Police were out in force, searching for 15 more suspects through the afternoon.

The operation targeted mostly dealers of heroin and other opiates, police said. It was the culmination of a series of undercover drug buys by the Vermont Drug Task Force. Officials said they planned to charge all 50 targeted suspects with felonies.

“It will have an immediate impact on the St. Albans area on a number of levels,” said State Police Colonel Thomas L’Esperance.

L’Esperance commended partner law enforcement agencies, including the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Franklin County Sheriff’s office and local agencies across the county.

“All of these agencies got together on their own dime,” he said. “They put together and put individuals into this task force out of their own pockets.”

Keith Flynn, Commissioner of Public Safety, said large sweeps are part of a new policing strategy in Vermont that impacts entire local drug markets, not just the arrested individuals. He said the sweeps change the economics of dealing drugs by introducing a new cost to would-be dealers’ cost-benefit analysis.

“We need to take the profit incentive away by the threat of arrest and incarceration,” he said.

While law enforcement officials called the day a success, some in the community dealing with addictions are suddenly without a supply. Dr. William Roberts, medical director of the comprehensive pain management program at Northwest Medical Center, said that now is the time to seek help.

“If people are subject to narcotic addiction disorders who find that they are suddenly without a source of narcotics,” Roberts said, “I would ask you to call either your primary care doctor to seek care, or to communicate with our staff at the comprehensive pain management program, which can be reached through our main line 534-8809.”

The success of such sweeps, Flynn said, is sometimes indicated by a short-term increase in crime as those who don’t seek treatment may commit burglaries in search of prescription opiates or other drugs.

“Our experience has shown us that after we conduct these types of actions, there can be an increase in crime because we’ve had an impact on the supply,” Flynn said, “and that’s the whole purpose behind this.”

Correction 12:42 p.m. 9/18/2013: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to L'Esperance as a Corporal. He is a Colonel.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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