Wednesday was far from just another day in Bennington.
A drug sweep of massive proportions conducted by more than 100 local, state and federal law enforcement officials resulted in the arrests of 47 alleged drug dealers who call Bennington County home. Named Operation County Strike, this aggressive measure was reportedly the largest such effort in Vermont history.
Teams of armed police clad in black tactical gear roamed area neighborhoods with the intent of surprising 63 individuals targeted for arrest. The intent was to quickly take suspected dealers and producers of heroin, cocaine, crack and pills of various sorts off the street in one fell swoop.
The well-coordinated effort allowed Vermont State Police to set up command in the Bennington Firehouse to manage the dispatch of the participating officers. Arraignment hearings were held in Bennington County Superior Court Criminal Division throughout the day, according to court clerks.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter assisting in Operation County Strike buzzed over the town of Bennington, and sirens of various police vehicles could be heard for miles.
Banner readers took notice of the hubbub and began responding to photos and videos the Banner staff posted on our Facebook page, as well as on BenningtonBanner.com.
A lively, colorful discussion of a magnitude never seen before erupted on the Banner’s Facebook page. Some readers posted messages of support to the law enforcement officers involved in the sweep while others voiced more desultory opinions.
"I am glad they are finally doing something about the problem. Being on main tue-sat I see drug deals left and right. They need to get the city people outta Bennington for sure!! I have been watching from Main Street for 14 yrs and never ever this bad. So I say thank you for making it somewhat the town I remember growing up in," said a commenter posting as Becky Sue.
Others, such as Facebook poster Katie Shutts, were more skeptical, "OH Boy drug arrest, so they can be put away for a short time let back out with some sort of Community Service and then right back to do it again."
Like our readers who claimed this military-style sweep was long overdue, we commend law enforcement officials who operated Wednesday under the command of Colonel Tom L’Esperance, director of the Vermont State Police, to rid Bennington’s (and other towns’) streets of those suspected of illicit drug trade.
"The Vermont State Police are pleased to be coordinating with multiple state, local, county, and federal agencies to combat the growing drug problem in southern Vermont," he said.
Though we do not expect to see such huge drug sweeps as Operation County Strike on a regular basis, we support our local, state and federal law enforcement valient efforts to make our streets safe for all.
Job well done.