"This is the single biggest threat to the state of Vermont," Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel said.
Merkel is talking about heroin. Two days ago his department took down one of the larger suppliers in Addison County. Police say the Brooklyn, N.Y., man was operating out of a Leicester home, peddling thousands of dollars of heroin in just days.
"The guy gets here on the 15th of December and by the 17th he's got half the heroin sold. He sold 550 to 600 bags of heroin. It's amazing," Merkel said.
But the chief says the sobering reality is that another drug trafficker is waiting in the wings to pick up where Brian Cumberbatch left off.
"There's a hell of a demand. A hell of a demand," Merkel said.
It's a trend seen across the state. The Vermont Drug Task Force says the number of heroin trafficking investigations has nearly tripled since 2009. The state's first major heroin wave ended in the 1990s when addiction shifted to prescription painkillers. But police say heroin is now making a comeback after drug companies reformulated OxyContin to make it harder to abuse.
"It was a resurgence and now it's far exceeding what we've ever seen before," said Lt. Matthew Birmingham of the Vt. Drug Task Force.
And the quantities of heroin coming in are unprecedented.
"We used to investigate circles where they would bring 100 to 200 bags at a time," Birmingham said. "Now, we are seeing consistently people who are bringing thousands of bags at a time into the state and multiple grams of raw product."
Authorities say low-level dealers who used to make day trips to source cities, buying enough heroin to feed their habits while making a few bucks, have been replaced by organized out-of-state drug rings with gang connections.
"The majority of them are organized criminal groups and the members of these groups are very violent," Birmingham said. "We have the potential of having Vermont citizens wrapped up in that and anyone who gets in the middle of that could get hurt."
And police say the traffickers are cashing in. They buy a bag, or one dose of heroin, in large cities for $2, and then sell it to Vermont addicts for ten times as much, wreaking havoc on addicted families.
"Where did that money come from? Who's not getting fed tonight? Who's not paying their rent? Who's not paying their heating bill?" Merkel asked.
"The solution is not easy," Birmingham said.
Authorities say curbing the epidemic is going to take the coordinated effort of police, treatment professionals and lawmakers.
"I would expect that we'll have a discreet group of people looking at it, as well as committees of jurisdiction. I think it will be an area of focus this year," said Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker.
Authorities are calling for a three-pronged solution: they say the traffickers must face tougher sentences, public awareness around the dangers of heroin must increase and demand for the drug must decrease, by improving access to treatment programs. There are currently about 400 people stuck on waiting lists at the state's methadone clinics.
Sunday, May 19 2013 12:06 AM EDT2013-05-19 04:06:03 GMT
Vermont State Police have charged 22-year-old Adam Page of Newport for stealing the Newport City Elementary School bus, which has now been declared totaled. A stolen dog was also recovered in the busMore >>
State Police say he is also being charged with the theft of two other vehicles and a woman's dog.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 11:45 PM EDT2013-05-19 03:45:20 GMT
State police are looking for the person responsible for stealing a school bus and taking it for a joyride in northern Vermont. Troopers say the 2014-model bus belonging Newport City Elementary SchoolMore >>
Police say the school bus belonging to the Newport City Elementary School was taken for a joy ride Friday night.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 10:10 PM EDT2013-05-19 02:10:53 GMT
A fatal accident in Lyndon Saturday. It happened around 2:30 Saturday afternoon on Route 122. Police say 76-year-old Gerda Blaszczyk of St. Johnsbury swerved to avoid an animal. Her car travelled up anMore >>
Police say the driver swerved to avoid an animal.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 8:03 PM EDT2013-05-19 00:03:45 GMT
Senator Bernie Sanders is touring the state this weekend with a special guest. Sanders and the Danish Ambassabdor to the United States are hosting town hall meetings in Burlington, Brattleboro and Montpelier. TheMore >>
Sanders and the Danish Ambassabdor to the United States are hosting town hall meetings.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 7:56 PM EDT2013-05-18 23:56:03 GMT
Saturday marked a new beginning for Castleton State College students. "Were all gathered here, getting fired up, having a good time," explained Castleton graduate, David Carrier. The 500 graduates hadMore >>
It's graduation day for the class of 20-13 at Castleton State College. And just for the occasion, the college invited back an alumnus with a strong connection to the school.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 7:51 PM EDT2013-05-18 23:51:14 GMT
Young bikers were learning the rules of the road in South Burlington Saturday. Kids who brought their bikes to the Dorset St. Park received free checks for their brakes, chains, and tires. Helmets alsoMore >>
and much more... making sure kids are safe before they hit the roads this summer.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 7:49 PM EDT2013-05-18 23:49:26 GMT
On a sun-soaked Saturday, Karen Trayah and her dogs enjoyed the sights, sounds, and of course smells of a festival for fidos. "It's called Woofstock, however, this is our 1st year doing it here at theMore >>
Making sure our furry friends have a place to call home.More >>
Friday, May 17 2013 7:54 PM EDT2013-05-17 23:54:10 GMT
The door to room 118 at the Liberty Inn and Suites is gone-- busted by police during an early morning drug raid. They say tenant Julie Herron, 41, was selling heroin out her room. She was living thereMore >>
A South Burlington drug bust exposed new abuses of the state's homeless voucher program. A couple was arrested for selling heroin out of their motel room, and police say the state was footing the bill for their stay.More >>