Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jan 2012
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2012 Burlington Free Press
Author: Sam Hemingway


MONTPELIER -- Evidence of gang activity is on the rise in Vermont, 
spurred by an active illicit drug market and the ease of obtaining 
guns in the state, the commander of the Vermont Narcotics 
Investigation Unit told a Senate panel Thursday. Also at the hearing, 
a state Health Department official expressed support for the concept 
of allowing state police drug investigators access to Vermont's 
prescription drug monitoring database.

"There's no question that we have gang members from large 
metropolitan areas coming to Vermont specifically to profit from the 
drug trade," Vermont State Police Capt. Glenn Hall said at a Senate 
Judiciary Committee hearing.

Hall said drug traffickers sometimes trade drugs for guns, because 
guns are harder to obtain in other states than Vermont and bring a 
higher value when resold back in states such as Massachusetts and New York.

Dominic D'Amato, manager of facility operations for the state 
Corrections Department, said guards at the state's seven jails have 
gathered evidence that suggested inmates with ties to out-of-state 
gangs such as the Bloods, Latin Kings and Aryan Nation, among others, 
have been incarcerated in Vermont.

"There's a saying they have that goes like 'Come to Vermont on 
vacation. Leave it on probation,'" D'Amato said. He said some of the 
groups with names such as the Chittenden County White Boys and the 
Franklin County White Boys are homegrown groups that are trying to 
emulate the out-of-state gangs.

The testimony about gang activity was sought by the committee's 
chairman, Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who said graffiti and other 
signs of a gang presence have turned up in his hometown recently. 
Sears said he wants to see Hall's unit, formerly known as the Vermont 
Drug Task Force, play the role of statewide gang task force.

"The idea is to have them focus more on gang activity," Sears said 
following Thursday's hearing. "I'm hoping we are able to get more 
federal dollars for this purpose, and add some troopers to the task 
force or create a separate unit."

Opiate monitoring

The Senate panel also heard testimony from Deputy Health Commissioner 
Barbara Cimaglio and state Medical Practice Board Director David 
Herlihy about the state's ongoing prescription opiate problem.

Cimaglio said the department supported plans to have doctors undergo 
special training to better handle pain management patients and better 
identify signs of prescription opiate addiction.

She also said the department wants all doctors to check with the 
department's Prescription Drug Monitoring System before issuing 
prescriptions and is prepared to provide three Vermont State Police 
drug investigators access to the database when necessary, something 
prohibited by the law that set up the database in 2006.

"The concept is one we support," she said. "We understand that 
because of the great deal of diversion that it is important to look 
at this, and we are experiencing conditions that we weren't 
experiencing when we first started the Vermont Prescription Drug System."

Herlihy told the panel the Medical Practice Board has put in place a 
policy requiring doctors to be more vigilant with patients receiving 
pain medications, and he cited a case that underlined why the policy 
is needed, both for the patient and the doctor.

"I had a report that showed that one doctor's patients filled at one 
pharmacy in about a seven-or eight-month period (involved) several 
hundred thousand dollars of narcotics," Herlihy said.

He said there was "nothing public in the case yet" because it remains 
under investigation.
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