The number of home burglaries is up in many Vermont towns -- and drugs are driving the crime.
"These are happening regularly. We hear -- not daily, but weekly -- of folks having their homes burglarized. And they are not taking electronics anymore, they are not taking firearms anymore, they are going to the bedroom and grabbing the jewelry. They are going to the bathroom looking for narcotics and then are gone," said South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple.
The stolen jewelry is usually sold to a dealer offering cash for gold or silver. A number of these dealers have popped up in recent years across the state. In July a new law went into effect requiring these dealers to take photographs of the items brought in, and the seller's ID -- like a license. The dealer has to hold the items for ten days before they can be resold.
But law enforcement officials said the law does not go far enough. There is a new omnibus drug bill being crafted in Montpelier aimed at attacking various elements of a growing drug trade in Vermont. "It's connected in the source of people robbing for drug money. If we can dry that up, we are not going to cure or stop addiction, but we can help to at least eliminate that incentive route," said Rep. Diane Lanpher (D-Addison).
Part of the bill would lengthen the wait time from ten days, to 30 days for gold and silver dealers when they purchase jewelry or coins from individuals. John Martin of Martin's Coin and Jewelry said the new law is a bad idea and could put him out of business. "We are buying commodities that changes and is very volatile. We are asked to hold it for 10 days. Within the last month or two our profit margin has gone down substantially because the price of the metals has gone down," he said.
Martin has been in business for 20 years. He buys and sells thousands of dollars worth of merchandise every month. "In a month's time I would say its four or $500,000 that we buy in a month," he said. "It is a lot of money," he added.
Martin also objects to the part of the bill requiring dealers to report to police on an individual sale of $1,000 or more. "Several times a day we sometimes purchase a deal over $1,000, and in this new law they are enacting anything over $1,000. We have to report to police within 48 hours of suspicious activity, which I think is not right.
Reporter Judy Simpson: You don't think that is your responsibility?
John Martin: Absolutely. It is not my responsibility.
Perry Sporn of Perrywinkles Fine Jewelry said they used to have a gold and silver buying store in central Vermont, but got out of that business. "For us, it's kind of a red flag that you are seeing multiple sales from the same customer -- that's a red flag. We were not comfortable with that. We closed the store," Sporn said. Perrywinkles still buys jewelry, but usually they say from customers looking to trade up.
Meanwhile lawmakers continue to work on the measure that will make it harder to sell stolen jewelry and coins quickly in Vermont.