By 6 a.m. Friday morning police had the home at 69 Spring Street, in Burlington's Old North End, surrounded. The suspected drug dealers inside were asleep and authorities hoped to have them in handcuffs before school doors opened 40 feet away.
"I can't think of a house in the city that is closer to a school than this particular residence," said Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling.
Bobby Riley, the Principal at H.O. Wheeler's Integrated Arts Academy said his campus is safe, but the proximity of the raid raises eyebrows. "We contacted families this morning letting them know that there was going to be a police presence possibly in the neighborhood," he said.
Burlington police executed the search warrant after undercover police made several drug buys from Victor Allen, 40, during a multi-month narcotics investigation. He and three other suspects were taken into custody as authorities hauled away bags of evidence. Chief Schirling said thousands of dollars of heroin and cocaine packed into softball sized bundles were seized, as well as a gun and $10,000 cash. Allen and Maria Twitty, 41, are facing felony drug sale and possession charges. Police believe all four suspects were living in the home with two kids, ages 8 and 17.
"We want to send a clear message that this is not going to be tolerated and you are going to see substantial resources expended on the part of local systems, state systems and federal systems," Chief Schirling said.
FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals and State Troopers all took part in the raid. Burlington's chief described this overwhelming response as the new normal. He said in the past nine months the city has been inundated with heroin and crack cocaine from big cities, from as far away as Chicago and Detroit. Law enforcement is teaming up to drive out the drug trade before it plants deeper roots in Vermont. Police are now investigating how this case may be connected to four arrests Friday morning in South Burlington and a recent raid on MegaBus passengers suspected of trafficking drugs.
"It was a good day in terms of getting drugs off the street and beginning the process of criminal prosecution of some key folks, but there's a lot of work to be done," Chief Schirling said.
The suspects are due in court Monday. Police say next week they also plan to unveil a new strategy for a larger crackdown on drug trafficking.
Police say the case will start in state court, but could go federal. They expect charges to be filed against the two unnamed suspects. All four could face enhanced penalties for operating the alleged drug business within a school zone.
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