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Some Vermont Cities See Summer Burglary Spike

Some Vermont cities have seen a spike in late-summer crime this year, with burglaries and other property crimes such as vehicle break-ins on the rise. Montpelier and Winooski both show a significant increase in burglaries in the second half of this summer over the same time last year, while Rutland saw a smaller increase. Burlington's burglaries decreased from last year.

Police in Montpelier, Winooski and Rutland all attributed the increase in crime to drug addiction.

"More often then not, these types of property crimes are in some way shape of form, tied back to substance abuse," said Montpelier Police Chief Tony Facos.

In Rutland, Police Chief James Baker said that while his department has dealt with some crack cocaine activity, "our primary challenge right now in the city is dealing with the depth of the opiate addiction problem, primarily heroin."

In Winooski, Deputy Chief Richard Benoit said the primary driver of burglaries in the city is heroin.

Max Schlueter at the Vermont Center for Justice Research said that while police often attribute property crimes to drug addiction, it's hard to know for sure.

"When you're talking about low numbers like that, there could be all sorts of explanations," Schlueter said. When the number of burglaries is in the single and double-digits, he said, small variables can have a significant impact on the community. Indeed, after 38 burglaries since July 1, Winooski Deputy Chief Benoit said just five arrests made a big difference.

"We know for a fact that we're dealing with a number of people that have committed numerous burglaries," said Benoit. "We've arrested five people for burglary in the last two weeks, and - knock on wood - we haven't had a burglary in a week now."

Because of the impact even one burglar can have on burglary numbers in a low-crime area, it's hard to know what's causing Montpelier's surge this summer. According to numbers provided by Sergeant Neil Martel of the Montpelier Police Department, there were 21 burglaries between July 1 and September 15 this year as opposed to just nine during the same period last year.

A big part of that happened on September 4, when three homes and a downtown business all reported burglaries in one day. Montpelier police have yet to make an arrest in any of this summer's burglaries. Facos remains convinced the crimes are drug-related based on "information that we have from people that we've investigated in the past [and] networks that we're aware of."

Schlueter said the relative ease of burglary, especially in Vermont where many residents leave their doors unlocked, makes it harder to identify the types of people who might commit the crime.

"Pretty much any body can be involved in burglary. It's a non-specialized type of crime," he said.

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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