YCQM - Keith Flynn - Feb. 28, 2012 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM - Keith Flynn - Feb. 28, 2012

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

February 26, 2012 -- Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn joins Darren Perron and Jennifer Reading to discuss Vermont's efforts to control opiate addictions.

TRANSCRIPT:

Good morning ... I'm Darren Perron. I'm Jennifer

>> GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. I'M DARREN PERRON.

>> AND I'M JENNIFER READING.

>> KEITH FLYNN IS OUR PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER.

>> ADDICTION IS ON THE RISE AND IS QUICKLY BECOMING THE STATE'S SAFETY CONCERN.

>> I SOLD OFF A LOT OF MY STUFF.

>> Reporter: STUFF THAT THIS YOUNG VERMONTER WAS WILLING TO GIVE UP FOR HEROIN AND PRESCRIPTION PILLS. IN THE END, THE COST WAS MUCH HIGHER. HIS OPIATE ADDICTION ALMOST KILLED HIM. JOHN, WHO ASKED WE NOT USE HIS REAL NAME S ONE OF THE ROUGHLY 3500 VERMONTERS WHO FIND THEMSELVES IN TREATMENT FOR OPIATE ADDICTION EVERY YEAR. WHERE WOULD YOU BE IF YOU HADN'T QUIT?

>> JAIL OR DEAD, NO DOUBT IN MY MIND.

>> THIS ISN'T A MAT ORE OF A PROBLEM; THIS IS EPIDEMIC.

>> Reporter: LOCAL POLICE IN EVERY CORNER OF THE STATE SAY THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE IS STAGGERING, AND MANY DEPARTMENTS DON'T HAVE THE RESOURCES TO DEAL WITH IT.

>> PEOPLE ARE STEALING FROM FAMILY MEMBERS, THEY'RE SELLING FAMILY HEIRLOOMS AND JEWELRY, THEY'RE BREAKING INTO HOMES, SELLING GUNS, IN ORDER TO GET MONEY FOR PAIN MEDICATION.

>> Reporter: THE LATEST ANNUAL NUMBERS SHOW THERE WERE ABOUT 70 ROBBERIES, 3,000 BURGLARIES, AND 10,000 THEFTS IN VERMONT, ALMOST ALL BY PEOPLE ON DRUGS.

>> THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO COULD NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS IMAGINE THEMSELVES WALKING INTO A PHARMACY WITH A GUN AND DEMANDING CASH.

>> Reporter: THIS ISN'T BE SOLVED BY LOCKING PEOPLE UP. THEY NEED TO CUT OFF THE SUPPLY. POLICE WANT DIRECT ACCESS TO THE PRESCRIPTION MONITORING SYSTEM, ARGUING THE SAME ON-LINE TOOL THAT HELPS DOCTORS TRACK PATIENTS' PAIN MEDS WILL ALSO HELP POLICE BUST PEOPLE DIVERTING PILLS. AND DOCTORS NEED TO BE MORE SCRUPULOUS ABOUT THE CONDITIONS FOR WHICH THEY PRESCRIBE THESE POWERFUL DRUGS.

>> I TELL YOU WHAT, THOSE ARE VERY HARD CASES TO PROVE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.

>> Reporter: DOCTORS SAY MANY PATIENTS HAVE LEGITIMATE PLAINTS -- COMPLAINTS, WHICH REQUIRE THINGS LIKE OXYCONTIN, BUT IF THEY GET HOOKED, THINGS GET DICEY.

>> SOME PATIENTS HAVE TWO PROBLEMS: A TERRIBLE, CHRONIC, PAINFUL CONDITION, AND SOME MISUSE OF THEIR MEDICATIONS TIED TOGETHER. SOMETIMES IT'S VERY HARD AS A PROVIDER TO KNOW WHICH IS WHICH AND WHICH ARE YOU TREATING.

>> Reporter: THE BEST WAY TO CONTAIN THIS EPIDEMIC IS TO REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF LEGITIMATE AND ILLICIT DRUGS OUT THERE, WHILE GETTING MORE PEOPLE INTO TREATMENT.

>> WHEN INDIVIDUALS ARE IN TREATMENT, EVEN IF THE TREATMENT IS NOT PERFECT, THEIR CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR DROPS BY 90 TO 95%.

>> Reporter: THE PROBLEM IS THAT PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP CAN'T GET IT. VERMONT BUILT ITS FIRST METHADONE CLINIC IN BURLINGTON IN 2002. SINCE THEN, FOUR OTHERS HAVE GONE UP. BUT CLINICIANS ARE HAVING A TOUGH TIME MEETING THE DEMAND. ALTHOUGH 640 PATIENTS RECEIVE DAILY METHADONE, 358 OTHERS ARE STUCK ON WAITING LISTS.

>> AND IT'S NOT HELPFUL TO SAY, "WELL, WE CAN HELP YOU, BUT IT'S GOING TO BE SIX MONTHS OR A YEAR BEFORE WE CAN ACTUALLY PROVIDE THAT SERVICE." WHEN SOMEONE IS SITTING ON A WAITING LIST, THEY'RE STILL USING AND ABUSING. THEY'RE DOING ALL THE NEGATIVE, ANTI-SOCIAL THINGS THEY'VE HAD TO DO IN THE PAST IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THAT HABIT.

>> Reporter: THE DECISION TO QUIT IS TERRIFYING TO MOST ADDICTS, AND THEY SAY THE WITHDRAWAL IS TORTURE.

>> I KNOW THAT YOU CAN'T DIE FROM IT, BUT YOU ABSOLUTELY WISH THAT YOU COULD.

>> Reporter: AFTER SEVERAL UNSUCCESSFUL STINTS IN REHAB, JOHN DECIDED IF HE DIDN'T WANT TO DIE, HE WOULD HAVE TO GIVE REHAB A SERIOUS SHOT. SEBOXONE IS THE MEDICATION THAT HELPED HIM.

>> IT HELPS WITH THE CRAVINGS, IT'S A BLOCKER, SO OXYCONTIN, HEROIN, IS ALL A WASTE OF MONEY.

>> Reporter: NOW HE AND OTHER VERMONTERS WILL DEPEND ON THIS DRUG TO KEEP THEM CLEAN. THAT'S BECAUSE OPIATE USE PERMANENTLY CHANGES THE CHEMISTRY OF THE BRAIN.

>> I FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT I ACCOMPLISHED.

>> Reporter: JOHN SAYS HIS SIX-YEAR BATTLE TO STAY SOBER HAS BEEN WORTH EVERY PAINFUL MINUTE.

>> I'M GOING TO SCHOOL, I HAVE A GREAT JOB, I HAVE FRIENDS THAT DON'T USE THAT ARE REAL FRIENDS, IT'S NOT JUST FAKE OR MASKED, AND I'M THANKFUL FOR ALL THAT.

>> Reporter: AND TO TALK MORE ABOUT THIS PROBLEM, WE ARE JOINED NOW BY PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER KEITH FLYNN.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> COMMISSIONER, THIS HAS BEEN A HUGE PROBLEM IN VERMONT, AND VERMONT IS CERTAINLY NOT ALONE. HOW DID WE GET TO THIS POINT?

>> IT'S HARD TO TELL HOW WE GOT TO THE POINT. THE ONE THING THAT WE'VE NOTICED IS WE ARE INCREASING THE AMOUNT OF USAGE IN VERMONT THAT WE WERE, SAY, 10, 15 YEARS AGO, AND THE IMPACT IT'S HAVING ON OUR COMMUNITIES IS GROWING. AND THAT HAS PROMPTED US TO LOOK AT HOW WE'RE DEALING WITH THIS. BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'VE REALIZED IN LAW ENFORCEMENT IS WE CANNOT SIMPLY ARREST OUR WAY OUT OF THIS. IF WE'RE GOING TO BE EFFECTIVE IN APPROACHING THIS PROBLEM IN THIS STATE, WE NEED TO LOOK AT EDUCATION, WE NEED TO LOOK AT ENFORCEMENT, WE NEED TO LOOK AT REHABILITATION. IN ORDER TO LOOK AT SOME OF THOSE THINGS, WE NEED TO LOOK AT IT ON A COMPREHENSIVE, STATE-WIDE BASIS. IT CAN'T BE IN JUST ONE AREA OR ANOTHER. WE HAVE TO LOOK AT, WHERE IS THIS PROBLEM REALLY EXITING -- EXISTING WITHIN THE STATE, AND WHAT CAN WE DO, NOT ONLY TO ADDRESS THE DEMAND SIDE, BUT ALSO THE SUPPLY SIDE. WE NEED TO HAVE A TWO-FRONT WAR ON HOW WE ADDRESS. THAT WE AREN'T GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL UNLESS WE WORK HARD ON EDUCATING THE PEOPLE OF VERMONT AS TO THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM AND THEN LOOKING AT THE OTHER END AND MAKING SURE WE'RE PROVIDING SUCCESSFUL, MEANINGFUL TREATMENT, AND MAKING THAT ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE.

>> WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PROBLEM, ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT PRESCRIPTION PILLS, OR HEROIN, OR IS THERE NOT A DISTINCTION?

>> BOTH ARE A PROBLEM THERE. IS A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HEROIN, THE COST OF HEROIN, AND THE COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. IF YOU SEE THE COST OF PRESCRIPTION DRUGS GOING UP, OXYCONTIN OR VIKO DIN, YOU'LL SEE THE COST OF HEROIN GOING DOWN, AND VICE-VERSA. IT WILL BALANCE BETWEEN THE TWO. ONE THING THAT ALZ HAPPENS AND ONE THING WE'VE SHOWN IN OUR EXPERIENCES, PEOPLE WHO HAVE THESE ADDICTIONS ARE ALWAYS CHASING THE HIGH, AND WE HAVE TO BREAK THAT CYCLE OF THEM CHASING THE HIGH, AND IT'S NOT BY ARRESTING EVERYONE THAT'S INVOLVED. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THAT WE FOCUS OUR EFFORT BY GOING AFTER THE PEOPLE THAT ARE BRINGING THE SUPPLIES IN, THAT ARE FURTHERING THE HABITS, AND, AT THE SAME TIME, GETTING TREATMENT TO THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE IDENTIFIED PROBLEMS.

>> WHAT ARE THE STATE POLICE -- WHAT ARE YOU FOLKS DOING, CRACKING DOWN ON THE FOLKS BRINGING IT IN, TALKING ABOUT TREATMENT -- YOU KNOW, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

>> WE'RE APPROACHING THIS IN A NUMBER OF WAYS. ONE OF THE BIG THINGS THAT WE'RE DOING, IS WE'RE MAKING SURE THAT WE'RE GETTING THE EDUCATION PIECE OUT THERE. WE NEED TO WORK WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH MORE TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE GETTING AN UNDERSTANDING AND EDUCATION WITHIN THE PUBLIC AS TO THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM, AND THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM THAT IT'S HAVING ON OUR STATE. WE'RE WORKING ON BETTER ENFORCEMENT MECHANISMS. FOR INSTANCE, RIGHT NOW THERE'S A BILL IN THE LEGISLATURE WHICH IS CONTEMPLATING LAW ENFORCEMENT ACCESS TO THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING SYSTEM. THAT IS AN IMPORTANT TOOL FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT. WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO GO INTO THIS DATABASE AND IDENTIFY WHERE THERE ARE ABNORMAL PRESCRIPTION USES AND TRENDS, AND GET TO THOSE PEOPLE, NOT BECAUSE WE WANT TO GET TO THEM QUICKER TO ARREST THEM, BUT TO IDENTIFY NEEDS AND HELP THEM BREAK THE CYCLE OF THEIR ADDICTION. AND THAT'S ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS WE CAN DO. LAW ENFORCEMENT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST SOURCES OF REFERRAL TO TREATMENT FACILITIES IN THE STATE, AND THAT'S SOMETHING WE NEED TO BE CONTINUING TO DO. DO THE MATH. IF WE ARREST EVERYONE WHO HAD AN ADDICTION PROBLEM, AND WE'RE LOOKING TO JUST PUT THOSE IN JAIL, WE WOULDN'T HAVE ROOM FOR ANYONE ELSE. WE NEED TO BE EVALUATING A PERSON'S RISK RATHER THAN A LEGAL CLASSIFICATION. THESE ARE ALL THINGS WE NEED TO LOOK AT. THIS PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING SYSTEM WILL ALLOW US TO GET THAT INFORMATION, AND IT'S INFORMATION THAT WE ALREADY HAVE ACCESS TO IN THE PHARMACIES. RIGHT NOW UNDER EXISTING STATE LAW, A STATE POLICE OFFICER CAN GO TO A PHARMACY AND ASK TO SEE SOMEONE'S SCHEDULE 2, 3, AND 4 DRUGS, AND THE PHARMACIST IS REQUIRED TO GIVE THE OFFICER A COPY OF THOSE. THE PROBLEM COMES IN WHEN WE COME TO THE PRACTICE CALLED "DOCTOR SHOPPING" OR FALSIFIED PRESCRIPTIONS. EVEN THOUGH SOMEONE MAY BE AT ONE PARTICULAR PHARMACY, THEY MAY BE USING FALSE PRESCRIPTIONS AT MANY OTHER PHARMACIES. WE HAVE TO DETERMINE WHERE THE PERSON IS GOING AND GETTING TO THAT PERSON, AND FINDING OUT IF THAT PERSON IS USING THAT AS A PERSONAL SOURCE TO SUPPORT THEIR OWN HABIT OR WHETHER THEY'RE MAKING IT AS A FINANCIAL DECISION TO ACTUALLY SELL THE PILLS.

>> SO I'M CURIOUS, COMMISSIONER: WITH THIS MONITORING SYSTEM, YOU CAN OBVIOUSLY SEE WHERE PATIENTS ARE GOING FOR THEIR PRESCRIPTIONS. WOULD LAW ENFORCEMENT BE INTERESTED IN USING THAT ALSO TO SEE IF DOCTORS ARE OVERPRESCRIBING?

>> ACTUALLY, THE MEDICAL BOARD WOULD HAVE -- THEY ACTUALLY HAVE INVESTIGATORS THAT DO THAT NOW, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING SYSTEM DOES NOW IS, QUARTERLY, THEY WERE SEND OUT TO DOCTORS, ONCE AN INTERNAL THRESHOLD IS MET, LETTERS INDICATING PATIENT X HAS BEEN GOING TO THIS PHARMACY, THAT PHARMACY, AND IS RECEIVING THIS AMOUNT OF THIS PRESCRIPTION DRUG, SO IT SERVES AS A WARNING AND A NOTICE TO THESE DOCTORS TO BE AWARE THAT THIS PERSON IS DOING THIS, AND I WOULD THINK THAT IT ALSO SERVES AS A FLAG TO THE MEDICAL BOARD AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, OF INSTANCES WHERE DOCTORS MAY BE OVERPRESCRIBING. WE ARE NOT TRYING TO, IN ANYWAY, INTERFERE WITH THE PROPER TREATMENT OF CHRONIC PAIN. THAT IS A MEDICAL NECESSITY. WE UNDERSTAND THAT, AND NONE OF THESE BILLS, NONE OF THE POLICE ACTIONS, NONE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH ACTIONS, NONE OF THE INVESTIGATORS' ACTIONS, ARE GEARED TOWARD INTERFERING WITH THAT. WE RESPECT THE ROLES DOCTORS PLAY. WE RECOGNIZE THIS. THIS IS ALL ABOUT CURBING AN EPIDEMIC WHICH HAS STARTED IN THIS STATE AND TRYING TO CUT IT OFF.

>> AND YOU'VE RAMPED UP EDUCATION EFFORTS. IS THIS A DIFFERENT DIRECTION THAN IN THE PAST? I MEAN, HASN'T THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND HEALTH DEPARTMENT ALWAYS GONE AFTER THIS MESSAGE THAT DRUGS ARE BAD, DON'T DO DRUGS? HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT?

>> I THINK IT'S DIFFERENT BECAUSE WE'RE SEEING A PROBLEM THAT TRANSCENDS JUST DRUG ADDICTION. THIS PROBLEM GOES FURTHER INTO -- WE SEE RISES, AS YOU NOTICED IN YOUR PIECE, WE SEE RISES IN OUR PROPERTY CRIMES, WE SEE RISES IN BURGLARIES, WE SEE RISES IN ARMED ROBBERIES. WE'RE SEEING PEOPLE ACTUALLY GO TO PHARMACIES AND JUMP OVER THE PHARMACY COUNTERS AND DEMANDING THE DRUGS AND GETTING THEM. IT'S THE TYPE OF CRIMES THAT ARE SPAWNING FROM THIS THAT WE NEED TO GET TO, BECAUSE THERE'S THE COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES AND THE COLLATERAL EFFECTS OF THESE ADDICTIONS THAT TEND TO DRIVE THE CRIMES, AND WE NEED TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THOSE. BECAUSE, MANY TIMES AS CAPTAIN HAW MENTIONED, THESE ARE PEOPLE HE WOULD NEVER EXPECT TO SEE INVOLVED IN CRIMES, BECAUSE WHAT'S DRIVING THEM IS THEIR ADDICTION, NOT THEIR NEED TO COMMIT CRIMES.

>> YOU HAD MENTIONED THAT, IN LARGE PART, THESE ARE NOT THE TYPICAL AT-RISK PEOPLE OR PEOPLE WHO HAVE RISKY BEHAVIOR, BUT HERE, YOU JUST MENTIONED YOURSELF, AND WE'VE REPORTED ON IT FOR WHAT SEEMS LIKE YEARS NOW ABOUT THIS, THAT IT SEEMS TO BE ESCALATING, TO THE POINT WHERE THEY'RE TAKEING BIGGER RISKS, THE VIOLENCE IS GETTING GREATER. SO CLEARLY THOSE PEOPLE NEED TO BE LOCKED UP. WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT THAT? I MEAN, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO SORT OF STEM THE TIDE OF THE VIOLENCE THAT WE'RE SEEING?

>> WELL, FIRST OF ALL, IF WE IDENTIFY THAT THE ROOT CAUSE OF SOME OF THESE OFFENSES IS TO SUPPORT AN UNDERLYING ADDICTION, WE NEED TO BE GETTING TO THAT UNDERLYING ADDICTION. THAT'S WHY THINGS LIKE THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING SYSTEM ARE SO IMPORTANT, SO THAT WE CAN GET TO THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE ABUSING THESE DRUG NOW BEFORE THE ADDICTION FURTHER ESCALATES, WE CAN GET TO THEM, WE CAN IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM, WE CAN GET THEM INTO THE TREATMENT FACILITY, AND GET THEM THE TREATMENT THEY NEED. IT'S MUCH CHEAPER TO HAVE THEM IN THERE, AS A SOCIETY, THAN TO HAVE THEM TAKING UP BED SPACES IN OUR PRISONS.

>> BUT THE TROUBLE IS A LOT OF THESE PEOPLE CAN'T GET INTO TREATMENT. THERE JUST ISN'T ENOUGH TREATMENT OUT THERE IN THE STATE OF VERMONT.

>> AND THAT'S ACTUALLY SOMETHING THAT'S BEING LOOKED AT RIGHT NOW. THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT LEGISLATION THAT'S CURRENTLY IN MONTPELIER TO PUT ADDITIONAL RESOURCES INTO THIS SYSTEM. IF YOU FRONT-LOAD THE APPROACH TO IT RATHER THAN COMING IN AFTERWARDS AND REACTING, THIS IS ONE OF THE INSTANCES WHERE YOU NEED TO BE PROACTIVE RATHER THAN REACTIVE. WE NEED TO APPROACH THIS EPIDEMIC FROM BOTH ENDS. THERE CERTAINLY IS A PLACE, AS YOU MENTIONED, FOR PUTTING OFFENDERS THAT ARE OUT COMMITTING VIOLENT CRIMES, THOSE PEOPLE NEED TO BE IN JAIL; IT'S THAT SIMPLE. BUT IF WE CAN GET TO THESE PEOPLE BEFORE THEIR ACTS ESCALATE, BEFORE THEIR DRIVE TO HAVE THEIR DRUG GETS THAT BAD, WE CAN SAVE MONEY THERE, AND WE CAN MAKE SOCIETY MORE -- SAFER AND PROTECT THESE PEOPLE IN A WAY THAT HUMANELY ADDRESSES THESE ADDICTIONS. WE HAVE TO REMEMBER, THIS ISN'T SOMEBODY SAYING "IT'S A SLOW WEEKEND, I'M GOING TO START DOING OXYCONTIN." SOMETIMES IT'S BECAUSE THEY HAD CHRONIC PAIN PROBLEM, AND THE PROBLEM HAS PERSISTED. THEY START SELF-MEDICATING TO ADDRESS THAT PAIN, AND THEY'VE ENDED UP ON THAT TREADMILL OF THIS PROBLEM. WE NEED TO IDENTIFY THAT. THIS IS A BROAD-REACHING PROBLEM.

>> DO YOU ALSO THINK THAT THE SENSE IS OUT THERE THAT IF IT'S IN, FOR TEENAGERS, SAY, IF IT'S IN MOM AND DAD'S MEDICINE CABINET THAT IT'S SAFE?

>> THAT'S AN INTERESTING THING, BECAUSE TO SOME EXTENT, I BELIEVE THAT'S TRUE, BECAUSE ONE OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE WITH OXYCONTIN, YOU HAVE THE UNDERLYING BELIEF THIS CAME FROM A DRUGSTORE. THIS MUST BE OF QUALITY, IT MUST BE OKAY TO USE, OR ELSE IT WOULDN'T BE PRESCRIBED. AND, OF COURSE, WE KNOW THAT THAT'S WRONG FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS. BUT ONE OF THE OTHER PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE IS THAT YOU DON'T HAVE THAT SAME ASSURANCE WITH HEROIN. HEROIN --

>> BETWEEN THE TWO, PILLS TO HEROIN, THE SAME EFFECT.

>> THE DIFFERENCE WITH HEROIN, YOU DON'T KNOW THE PURITY OF WHAT YOU'RE GETTING. ONCE YOU GO DOWN THAT, YOU MAY GET A RATHER UNCUT, VERY PURE STRAIN OF HEROIN ONE TIME, THE NEXT TIME IT MIGHT BE NOT AS CUT OR CUT EVEN MORE, SO YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET THE SAME LEVEL HIGH, AND FOR THESE OPIATE ADDICTS, THESE PEOPLE WHO HAVE THESE CHRONIC ADDICTIONS, IT'S ALL ABOUT CHASING THAT HIGH, TRYING TO REPLICATE THAT FIRST FEELING THEY HAD, AND THAT'S WHERE THE PROBLEM STARTS.

>> SAFETY COMMISSIONER KEITH

>> WE'RE BACK WITH PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER KEITH FLYNN. WE TALKED ABOUT SOME KIDS GETTING THESE OPIATES OUT OF THEIR PARENTS' MEDICINE CABINETS, FOR EXAMPLE. WHERE ELSE ARE THESE DRUGS COMING FROM, IF PEOPLE ARE NOT DOCTOR SHOPPING. THEY'RE COMING FROM OUT OF STATE?

>> RIGHT. THERE IS AN OUT-OF-STATE MARKET FOR PILLS AS WELL AS HEROIN. WE'VE NOTICED THAT HEROIN HAS A GREAT STREET VALUE UP HERE, WHERE YOU CAN BUY IT FOR MUCH CHEAPER OUT OF STATE, AND IT'S ACTUALLY PROFITABLE FOR PEOPLE THAT BRING THIS IN FROM OUT OF STATE, AND TO MAKE MONEY ON IT UP HERE, AND TO BE ABLE TO DO IT WITH A CONTINUING DEGREE OF FREQUENCY WHERE IT IS ALWAYS PROFITABLE TO DO. FOR INSTANCE, IF YOU CAN BUY A BAG OF HEROIN IN SOME MAJOR METROPOLITAN AREA, EITHER BOSTON OR NEW YORK, AND BRING IT UP HERE, IF YOU BUY IT DOWN THERE FOR $5 A BAG, YOU CAN SELL IT UP HERE FOR $25, 30, $35 A BAG. THERE IS A SUBSTANTIAL PROFIT MARGIN THERE. AND WITH THAT COMES ALSO THE INFLUX OF OTHER NEGATIVE CHARACTERISTICS FOR VERMONT, OF THE CRIME ELEMENT. BECAUSE WHEN THAT HAPPENS, AND WHEN IT BECOMES PROFITABLE, YOU SEE THE INFLUENCE OF WHAT ORGANIZED CRIME CAN HAVE ON THIS. CERTAINLY -- I THINK WE WOULD BE NAIVE IF WE DIDN'T RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS AN ORGANIZED-CRIME COMPONENT TO THIS, BECAUSE THIS IS PROFITABLE. THIS REPRESENTS MONEY. AND AS A STATE, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT DOING, AND SENATOR SEARS HAS BEEN PLAYING A MAJOR LEADING ROLL ON THIS IN THE SENATE THIS YEAR, IS HELPING TO RECOGNIZE THAT WE DO HAVE THIS ORGANIZED-CRIME PROBLEM IN THE STATE, BECAUSE THE EVIDENCE OF IT LIES IN THE DRUGS THAT ARE COMING HERE FROM OUT-OF-STATE. WE NEED TO BE ADDRESSING THAT, WE NEED TO BE GETTING A HOLD OF THAT ISSUE, FINDING MEANINGFUL WAYS TO EXECUTE AGAINST IT THROUGH LAW ENFORCEMENT, FIND MEANINGFUL WAYS TO PROSECUTE IT, AND FIND MEANINGFUL WAYS TO PROSECUTE IT. WE'RE HOPING TO MOVE FORWARD IN THOSE AREAS.

>> HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? OBVIOUSLY IF IT'S COMING IN FROM OUT OF STATE, POLICE CAN'T PULL OVER EVERYONE CROSSING A STATE LINE.

>> RIGHT. BUT OUR OFFICERS HAVE TRAINING IN WHAT'S REFERRED TO AS INTERDICTION, SO THAT WHEN WE STOP A VEHICLE, WHEN WE WALK UP TO THAT VEHICLE, THEY'RE LOOKING AT CERTAIN INDICATORS INSIDE, WHICH WILL ALERT THEM THAT MAYBE THERE'S SOMETHING DIFFERENT GOING ON IN THIS VEHICLE. MAYBE THERE'S MORE THAN WHAT IS BEING SEEN HERE. THERE WAS RECENTLY A STUDY THAT WAS DONE THAT REFLECTED WHAT OUR STATE POLICE PRACTICES WERE, AND WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT STOPPING AND SEARCHING APPROXIMATELY ONLY 1% OF THE VEHICLES THAT COME INTO THIS STATE, HOWEVER, OF -- WELL, OF THE TARGET AREA THAT WE LOOKED AT -- OF THOSE 1% THAT WE'RE STOPPING, WE'RE FINDING CONTRABAND IN ABOUT 73% OF THOSE, WHICH IS AN EXTREMELY HIGH RATE WHEN YOU LOOK AT NATIONAL STATISTICS. WE'RE DOING AN EXCEPTIONAL JOB WHEN WE REQUEST CONSENT SEARCHES AND WHEN WE'RE LOOKING AT THEM. I UNDERSTAND THERE HAS BEEN SOME CRITICISM OF THAT REPORT, ESPECIALLY BY THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, BUT I ENCOURAGE THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO LOOK CAREFULLY AT THAT REPORT, TO SET ASIDE THEIR INSTITUTIONAL BIASES IN REGARD TO POLICE ACTIVITY, AND JOIN US IN OUR EFFORTS TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE NOT ENGAGING IN BIASED POLICING. IT HAS TO BE DONE IN A SPIRIT OF COOPERATION, AND WE BELIEVE WE CAN DO THAT. THE STATE POLICE ARE CERTAINLY MAKING AN EFFORT IN THAT REGARD.

>> COMMISSIONER, YOU HAD MENTIONED THAT THIS APPEARS TO BE, YOU KNOW, IN PART ORGANIZED CRIME. IS THERE A CONCERN, A FEAR IN PUBLIC SAFETY, THAT THESE GROUPS ARE THEN LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR GANG ACTIVITY IN VERMONT? I KNOW YEARS AGO WE WERE ABLE TO GET THEM OUT OF RUTLAND, GET THEM OUT OF BENNINGTON. IS THERE NEW CONCERN THAT WE COULD SEE A RESURGENCE OF GANGS IN VERMONT?

>> THAT ACTIVITY ALREADY OCCURS WITHIN THE STATE. THERE'S ALREADY EVIDENCE OF GANG-RELATED ACTIVITY, WHETHER IT'S DIRECT ACTIVITY, WHETHER IT'S THROUGH INDIRECT MEMBERS. THERE'S ALSO EVIDENCE THAT THAT NEVER LEFT, THAT CONTINUES TO BE HERE, AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO WORK ON. AND, AGAIN, THAT'S THE FOCUS OF SENATOR SEARS' BILL, AND I'M VERY PROUD TO SAY WE'RE WORKING WITH HIM ON THAT AND HOPING WE CAN MOVE THAT FORWARD TO ADDRESS IT BEFORE IT EVEN ESCALATES MORE.

>> IN ISOLATED AREAS, ARE THERE SPECIFIC AREAS WHERE YOU'RE SEEING CONTINUED GANG ACTIVITY?

>> I WOULDN'T SAY THAT IT'S ISOLATED BECAUSE IT'S OCCURRING IN MORE THAN A COUPLE OF PLACES. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT DRIVES THE GANG ACTIVITY OR THE GANG-RELATED ACTIVITY IS THE PROFIT INCENTIVE. AND THERE IS SUBSTANTIAL PROFIT INCENTIVE IN DRUGS, BECAUSE THERE ARE A NUMBER OF THINGS IN VERMONT THAT ARE OF VALUE UP HERE. OF THE ACCESSIBILITY OF FIREARMS IN VERMONT IS -- IS MUCH EASIER TO GET HOLD OF A GUN HERE THAN IN NEW YORK CITY. YOU CAN COME UP HERE, GET ACCESS TO GUNS, AND TAKE THEM TO THE CITY IN EXCHANGE FOR DRUGS. THOSE ARE SOME OF THE TYPES OF THINGS THAT WE'RE SEEING AND NEED TO ADDRESS AS WE CONTINUE FORWARD IN LOOKING AT HOW WE'RE GOING TO ADDRESS THIS DRUG PROBLEM, SPECIFICALLY THE OPIATE PROBLEM.

>> IT'S NOT NECESSARILY WHAT YOU ASSUME IN LARGER CITIES. WE'RE JUST SEEING SOME VIDEO NOW. WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS, YOU KNOW, SMALLER PEOPLE -- WITH TIES TO GANGS, CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, COMING IN, SETTING UP IN A HOTEL ROOM, AND OPERATING FOR A LARGER GANG THAT'S THEN OUT OF STATE. IS THAT THE PROBLEM?

>> YES, AND THAT'S WHAT I'M REFERRING TO WHEN I SAID DIRECT OR INDIRECT GANG ACTIVITY. ALL THOI -- ALTHOUGH WE MAY NOT SEE PEOPLE WEARING THEIR COLORS OR DISPLAYING, THEY HAVE A DIRECT OR INDIRECT RELATIONSHIP TO THE GAMES, BUT THEY HAVE THE SAME MOTIVE AND THE SAME FINANCIAL INCENTIVE THAT'S DRIVING THEM.

>> AND IN VERMONT, WHAT I'M HEARING FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT IS WHAT THEY'RE SEEING ON A DAILY BASIS ARE THESE PROPERTY CRIMES TO GET DRUGS. DO YOU THINK WE'RE GOING TO SHIFT TO MORE VIOLENCE IN TERMS OF WEAPONS BEING INVOLVED OR WEAPONS GOING OFF? THAT'S WHAT I HEARD FROM ONE OF THE LOCAL POLICE DEPARTMENTS, THAT HE IS SEEING FIREARMS BEING DISCHARGED DURING THESE ALTERCATIONS.

>> THAT'S SOMETHING THAT'S ALWAYS A CONCERN. VIOLENT CRIME IS ALWAYS A CONCERN TO LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND WE NEED TO BE DILIGENT IN HOW WE'RE GOING TO APPROACH THAT. ONE OF THE THINGS GOVERNOR SHUMLIN SAID TO ME IS WE NEED TO BE SMART ON CRIME AND TOUGH ON CRIME. WE HAVE TO IDENTIFY PROBLEM AREAS AND DIRECT OUR RESOURCES TO THAT. AND THAT IS CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT A LOT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITIES. AND AS WE PURSUE THESE GOALS OF REDUCING OPIATE ADDICTION WITHIN OUR STATE, WE NEED TO IDENTIFY SPECIFIC GOALS, WE NEED TO IDENTIFY SPECIFIC STRATEGIES, AND WE NEED TO LOOK AT WHAT OUR END OBJECTIVES ARE GOING TO BE APPROACHING THOSE. AND EVEN THOUGH OUR STRATEGIES MAY CHANGE FROM TIME TO TIME AS TO HOW WE'RE GOING TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES, WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO BE SMART ON OUR APPROACH TO THEM. IF WE SEE THAT VIOLENCE IS ESCALATING, WE NEED TO RESPOND TO THAT IN A WAY THAT'S GOING TO BE EFFECTIVE TO CURB THAT AND CONTINUE TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITY SAFE, AND THAT'S A CHALLENGE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT. IT'S FLUID. IT CAN CHANGE FROM TIME TO TIME. THERE'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE THE INCIDENTAL ACT WHERE SOMEBODY'S GOING TO ACT WITH VIOLENCE, BUT WHAT WE HAVE TO BE CAUTIOUS OF IS MAKING SURE THAT THESE TRENDS OF VIOLENCE DON'T BECOME THE NORM. AND THAT'S A CHALLENGE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT.

>> AND WHAT WE JUST SAW THIS WEEK IN A DRUG BUST IN SOUTH BURLINGTON WAS THAT IT WAS -- A WHOLE RING OF PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THIS. THEY END UP GETTING ONE OF THE PLAYERS. BUT WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING IN THE POLICE AFFIDAVIT WAS THAT THIS, THIS GROUP WAS SAYING THAT THEY BRING UP 1,000 BAGS OF HEROIN, OR 100 BUNDLES, EVERY THREE TO FOUR DAYS. THAT REALLY SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT THE AMOUNT OF DRUGS COMING INTO THIS STATE.

>> IT DOES. AND WHAT CONCERNS ME ABOUT THAT, AS PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSIONER, IS THAT NOT ONLY DO THEY BRING IT UP EVERY THREE TO FOUR DAYS, THE REASON THEY'RE DOING IT IS BECAUSE THERE CONTINUES TO BE A MARKET, THERE CONTINUES TO BE A DEMAND. NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE TO WORK ON THE SUPPLY SIDE OF THE DRUGS COMING INTO THIS STATE, WE NEED TO WORK ON THE DEMAND SIDE. IF WE REDUCE THAT, THAT WOULD REDUCE THE FINANCIAL INCENTIVE TO BRING THE DRUGS IN. WE NEED TO BE SMART IN OUR APPROACH TO THIS, AND IT NEEDS TO BE A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH THAT'S NOT JUST GOING TO BE LAW ENFORCEMENT ORIENTED, BUT HAS ALWAYS THE COMCOMPONENTS NECESSARY TO COMBAT THE PROBLEM.

>> THANK YOU FOR SHEDDING LIGHT ON THIS VERY IMPORTANT TOPIC.

>> THANK YOU.

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    Today marks the end of the snowmobile season. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reports a banner year with the best riding conditions in years. VAST says next year snowmobilers will be able toMore >>
    Today marks the end of the snowmobile season. The Vermont Association of Snow Travelers reports a banner year with the best riding conditions in years. VAST says next year snowmobilers will be able toMore >>
  • A big honor for a Burlington teen

    A big honor for a Burlington teen

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:06 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:06:26 GMT
    16-year-old Yusuf Abdi was named 2014 Vermont Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. He received the award during a celebration at the State House today. Judges called him extraordinary for his age, articulate,More >>
    16-year-old Yusuf Abdi was named 2014 Vermont Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. He received the award during a celebration at the State House today.More >>
  • Blood donor honored for his contributions

    Blood donor honored for his contributions

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:04 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:04:54 GMT
    There are your average blood donors who might give once or twice a year and then there is Frank Sklenarik. He's donated 140 units or 17-and-half gallons of blood since becoming a donor in 1996. Today theMore >>
    There are your average blood donors who might give once or twice a year and then there is Frank Sklenarik. He's donated 140 units or 17-and-half gallons of blood since becoming a donor in 1996. Today theMore >>
  • Weather rollercoaster wreaks havoc across the state

    Weather rollercoaster wreaks havoc across the state

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 04:07:42 GMT
    Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow. Rivers are spilling their banks, roadsMore >>
    Rain, flooding and now snow. This weather rollercoaster is causing problems all around our region. Temps have dropped so the heavy rainfall has switched to snow.More >>
  • Rutland mom caught stealing Easter goodies

    Rutland mom caught stealing Easter goodies

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 1:07 AM EDT2014-04-16 05:07:35 GMT
    A Rutland mom is busted for stealing goodies for her child's Easter basket.  22-year-old Monica Barker pleaded guilty to swiping about $70 in merchandise from Wal-mart. Police say most of the stolen itemsMore >>
    A Rutland mom is busted for stealing goodies for her child's Easter basket.  22-year-old Monica Barker pleaded guilty to swiping about $70 in merchandise from Wal-mart. Police say most of the stolen itemsMore >>
  • Warnings about rising rivers across our region

    Warnings about rising rivers across our region

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-16 00:08:37 GMT
    Flood warnings are in effect around our region as heavy rains begin to move through. There is already localized flooding at some of the typical problem spots, like the wrong-way bridge on Route 15 inMore >>
    Parts of our region are already flooding and others are bracing as heavy rains move through. Not only is rain falling fast, but warm temperatures Monday melted snow, adding to high waters.More >>
  • Man rescued from Black River in Springfield

    Man rescued from Black River in Springfield

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 7:06 PM EDT2014-04-15 23:06:00 GMT
    A man had to be pulled from the Black River in Springfield Tuesday morning. The Hartford Fire Department says it's working to pull a man out from the river. They say he got stuck about 75 feet out inMore >>
    Vermont emergency workers have rescued a man stranded in the middle of a treacherous section of river in downtown Springfield.
    More >>
  • NH agrees Vt. man was insane during killing

    NH agrees Vt. man was insane during killing

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-15 18:49:26 GMT
    A Vermont man charged with stabbing a stranger to death in the lobby of a New Hampshire hotel last year will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.More >>
    A Vermont man charged with stabbing a stranger to death in the lobby of a New Hampshire hotel last year will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.More >>
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