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WCAX Investigates: Armed robberies on the rise in Vermont - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

WCAX Investigates: Armed robberies on the rise in Vermont

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Robbed at gunpoint; a Vermont cashier shares her story with Jennifer Costa as WCAX Investigates a crime sweeping the state.

"It was not something I want to go through again...ever," said Brittany Butler, Maplefield's cashier.

It's an image etched in Butler's mind. The night a masked man pulled a gun and robbed her. The Maplefield's cashier says one month later the scene still replays in her head. 

"I was just thinking about going home to my son," said Butler.

The suspects made off with cash and cigarettes, but what they took from this Cabot mom was much more precious.

"I've lived in this town pretty much my whole life and always felt safe here. And that safety is gone," said Butler.

Armed robberies in Vermont have more than doubled in the last five years from a low of 50 in 2011 to a high of 110 last year.

"They want to get in, get cash and leave," said Captain Bob Cushing, Vermont State Police.

Cushing says drugs, particularly the state's addiction to heroin and opiate pills, are fueling the surge. And 2016 is not looking better. 

At least a dozen businesses hit from South Burlington to Bennington, Leicester and Cabot, Plainfield and Winooski to Brattleboro and Hardwick. Few communities have been spared.

"The people who are committing these crimes, they can be unpredictable and they're at their wits end," said Cushing.

Crime stats show they used guns 35 times and knives 21 times to intimidate clerks in half of these stick-ups.

Convenience stores are the most popular target for thieves with 64 of them being hit in Vermont last year alone. Experts say video cameras don't deter robbers, they only help will apprehension.

 "I think we're getting better at talking and tying more of these together," said Cushing.

Cushing does not believe 110 robbers are running free. Rather, he says the majority of these crimes are committed by repeat offenders -who will continue until they're caught. 

"If at all possible, be the best witness you can be to make as many observations you can of the person committing the crime," said Cushing.

Laste year, 32 cases were solved. That's in large part to people like Butler behind the counter. 

"Whenever there were robberies around I was like, 'oh how did they not know who it was, how did they not get a better description,' and now I know. So many things are running through your mind at that point."

On the top of that list is getting home alive.

"Clerks don't get paid enough to carry guns. Our life isn't worth the money in the register," said Butler.

Hours after we interviewed Butler, the two suspects in her case were arrested. Both are facing charges related to the armed robbery. If you recognize any of the people in the surveillance video you're urged to call police.

The data we requested showed -businesses are hit most on Mondays and Tuesdays and twice as many robberies occurred in December than any other month.

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