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EXCLUSIVE: State prosecutor says system not designed to investigate and prosecute shoplifters in a timely manner

By Michael Bielawski

The State Chittenden County Prosecutor Sarah George stated at Burlington’s Community Forum on public safety that the overall justice system is not set up for timely investigation and prosecution of repeat-shoplifters.

“There isn’t a legal avenue to just hold people in jail while their cases are pending,” she said. “It is literally against the law and our Constitution to do that. So if someone is stealing repetitively from a store I would first say that it’s often two months at least until our office knows anything about it and that’s if we get the cases from law [enforcement].”

She said the police have to finish their investigations before her office gets involved.

“If the cases are investigated and solved and then those cases come to us, it’s often two months at least until our office knows anything about it. So in that time, people are of course able to continue to engage in that behavior without our office ever knowing it’s happening so much later on,” she said.

She also said that her office cannot lock up anyone without a conviction.

“And then by the time we do, we can’t just hold people in jail,” George said. “They are entitled to their freedom and they are presumed innocent until we have proven at trial that they are guilty and that is another delay while we are attempting to do that so that’s how our system works.”

She continued that she wishes both the police and her office could collect, investigate, and prosecute shoplifting in a more timely manner but “that is not how our system is designed to work, unfortunately” she said.

The clip can be seen here.

Burlington Mayor says meth and Fentanyl fueling crime

Burlington mayor Miro Weinberger was on the Morning Drive radio show on Wednesday talking about how Fentanyl and meth are fueling the crime crisis.

“Since 2020 Fentanyl and meth have become the dominant drugs in the area and that has been a game changer,” Weinberger said. “Fentanyl is a much more powerful opioid, a much higher risk and overdose and death, it’s an opioid that people have to consume much more frequently, it used to be people if they were heavily addicted they would be using these drugs every 8-to-10 hours, now it’s every 2-to3 hours. People are injecting or smoking this drug 8-to-10 times a day.”

He also talked about how meth makes people behave worse.

“Meth has this terrible side effect of making people very agitated and at times more likely to commit crimes or create other problems,” he said. “That is really the biggest change that I believe is driving this real Vermont-wide and really country-wide challenge with legal drugs right now. The fact that we have so many more homeless people is driven by our problematic housing market is another big component of it. And of course, our ability to address this is also impacted by the loss of officers that we faced.

More thefts over the holiday

There were more thefts over the holiday, especially on Tuesday. There was a request for information put out by state police after someone robbed an Aubuchon Hardware store in Moretown.

The report states, “Troopers received a report of a retail theft that occurred the previous week. Aubuchon Hardware in Moretown, Vermont reported multiple items taken from their store.”

A still from a security camera can be seen here.

Also on Tuesday, there was a car theft at the St. J Subaru dealership. A man on security camera can be seen checking car doors throughout the parking lot and when he finds one that is unlocked with a key still inside, he drives it away.

Stores are not the only target for thefts. The same day there was another incident involving two white men in a red SUV-type vehicle taking four snow tires and four aluminum rims from a residence in Glover.

The author is a reporter for the Vermont Daily Chronicle


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