In the wake of last week’s drug sweep, during which 48 suspected drug dealers were taken into police custody, some residents of the Bennington area have reported feeling a bit safer on their own home turf.
One caller from Shaftsbury, who declined to give her name, said since the large-scale drug sweep, known as Operation County Strike, she has felt an overwhelming sense of peace in the community.
"My daughter can now visit the store down the street to buy milk without running into drug dealers," she said.
The caller said she took it upon herself to personally phone local and state police to thank them for rounding up those in the area suspected of involvment in the drug trade.
Kristine Lynn Jackson posted on the Banner’s Facebook page, in response to a reader poll about reaction to the drug sweep, "I feel safer, but they still have some more people to go. Hopefully all these people who were arrested are held to the fire and get some serious time."
Todd Pisonneault posted that he feels "maybe a bit" safer.
"Still too many clowns out there," he said. "Great job either way."
While some Facebook posters did state that they have felt more safe in their neighborhoods since the drug raid, other commenters responded that local drug activity continues relatively unscathed.
"Unfortunately it is but a drop in the bucket, but you gotta start somewhere," Craig Borden of Bennington wrote on Facebook. "Keep at it and those drops can become something bigger. Hopefully they can get some of them to turn on their suppliers. They can keep working their way up the food chain and really make a difference. Stay with it and word will get around that Bennington is not gonna put up with that crap any longer."
Kait Hamilton of Bennington posted that she does not feel safer today than she did before the drug sweep.
"Pretty much everyone who was arrested was bailed out or released. Once a criminal always a criminal," she wrote.
How does the Bennington community move forward toward a more peaceful future after witnessing the largest drug sweep in state history here?
The Rev. Jerrod Hugenot, of the First Baptist Church of Bennington, said he is "interested in fostering a dialogue in this community that looks at this from a variety of angles."
Hugenot said he intends to come up with some forum for community members to constructively discuss solutions to the problem of drug addiction in Bennington.
The faith community of Bennington has a role to play, according to Hugenot, and it must lean more toward redemption than judgment.
"This is not just a bunch of people out of town, it’s a bunch of people we know who got caught up in an addiction and need the community to support them," he said.
Creating a public dialogue and brainstorming solutions to the problem of drug addiction in the community are steps in the right direction.