BENNINGTON — For the second time in less than a year, an inter-agency task force made up of area police officers conducted a drug sweep of Bennington County on Wednesday, arresting 16 people for charges related to heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs.
Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette said police were looking for 23 people Wednesday as part of Operation Strike Two. Doucette said he believed the success of the drug sweep, which netted about 70 of the people identified, came from cooperation between the Vermont State Police, the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department and the police departments in Bennington and Manchester.
In January, police conducted a drug sweep called Operation County Strike with 67 targets. Almost 50 people were arrested that day.
“After the program was so successful in Bennington County, the program continued around the state of Vermont. We had successful drug operations in Springfield, St. Albans and now right back here in Bennington,” Doucette said.
Bennington County State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said the reason for two sweeps in nine months in the same county was the idea of “being persistent” and targeting drug sales. She also pointed out that law-enforcement officers in January had been clear that the drug sweep was not a one time event.
Doucette said he didn’t believe police could eliminate the problem of drug abuse but could try to reduce its occurrence and impact.
“We definitely need to push back and arrest these people and have successful prosecution,” Doucette said. “And we need the judges to take a look at all these crimes that are being committed with all of this drug dealing and hand out harsh sentences.
On Wednesday afternoon, 14 people were arraigned. None of them were ordered held without bail although several would have been required to post bail before being released.
Arraignments took place in Bennington criminal court for: Kathleen M. Bresnahan, 45, of Bennington, for three felony counts each of selling cocaine and selling heroin, three misdemeanor counts of possessing cocaine and two misdemeanor counts of possessing heroin; Bonnie Bucchieri, 23, of Arlington, for a felony count of selling heroin and a misdemeanor count of possessing heroin; Christopher D. Coyne, 28, of Pownal, for felony charges of selling cocaine and conspiracy to sell drugs and a misdemeanor count of selling drugs in a home; and Edward Crandall Jr., 36, of Bennington, for two felony counts of selling heroin, a felony count of selling drugs to minors in view of a school and a misdemeanor count of possession of heroin.
Also arraigned were: Tracy Eastman, of Bennington, 41, on two felony counts each of selling cocaine and heroin, four misdemeanor counts of selling drugs in a home, two misdemeanor counts of possession of cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possessing heroin; Nicholas Gillotti, 30, of Bennington, on two felony counts of selling heroin, a felony count of possessing heroin and a misdemeanor count of possession heroin; Ashley Rafus, 25, of four felony counts of selling cocaine, four misdemeanor counts of possessing cocaine and four misdemeanor counts of selling drugs from a home; Kayleigh E. Sigsbury, 25, of Bennington, for a felony count of selling cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possessing cocaine; and Chalissa Shakir, 20, of Bennington, for a felony count of selling cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possessing cocaine.
The final group of arraignments were for: Andrea Stepp, 25, for misdemeanor possession of regulated drugs; Beverly Stratton, 36, of Shaftsbury, for a felony charge of selling regulated drugs and a misdemeanor charge of possession of regulated drugs; Mark Stratton, 30, for a felony count of sale of regulated drugs; Domenic Thane, 22, for felony counts of selling heroin and regulated drugs and misdemeanor counts of possessing heroin and regulated drugs; and Joseph E. Wright, 30,of Manchester, for a felony count of selling cocaine and a misdemeanor count of possessing cocaine.
All of the people arraigned on Wednesday pleaded innocent. Two others arrested Wednesday are expected to be arraigned today.
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