Manchester chief decries ‘catch and release' arrests
MANCHESTER -- "Catch and release" should only apply to fishing, according to Police Chief Michael Hall.
The town's ranking police officer took to Facebook recently to express his frustration over the number of people arrested in drug sweeps who are charged with new crimes upon their release.
Hall's first post came on Oct. 7, the day his department arrested Daniel C. Reddan, 31, of Manchester, for allegedly stealing lottery tickets. Just a week earlier, Reddan was released from Vermont Superior Court in Bennington after he pleaded not guilty to charges of selling heroin.
Similarly, Bonnie Bucchieri, 23, of Arlington, was arrested on Sept. 25 in a county-wide drug sweep only to be released on conditions. She was then arrested on Sept. 30 for allegedly stealing $1,300 from a restaurant where she used to work.
"Anyone see a pattern here?"
"Anyone see a pattern here?" Hall wrote. "It's unconscionable for our judicial system to release addicts back into our community and not expect such behavior."
Hall said in an interview he understands how the court system works and does not blame prosecutors, but something needs to change.
State's Attorney Erica Marthage said Thursday that bail can only imposed to assure a person's appearance in court. She and her deputies ask for "high" amounts, but judges often do not grant their requests. In many cases, she said, the defendants live in and have ties to the local communities and so the risk of them fleeing the court's jurisdiction is low.
"There's only two ways to control drug addiction that I know of ... rehab or jail," Hall wrote. "Either one will keep them from continuing a self-destructive lifestyle, give them a chance to get their act together and live a normal life."
He urged people to speak to their lawmakers about the problem. "The catch and release program should only apply to fishing," he wrote.
Hall followed up on his post on Oct. 22, citing a news story about a Rutland man accused of burglary. According to Hall, the man has a list of pending cases against him and is addicted to drugs. Hall wrote the man was held on $50,000 bail over the weekend, which was reduced to $5,000 at his arraignment. "Perhaps the court will further reduce it and set him free again to fend for himself," Hall wrote.
The court can hold people without bail under certain conditions, namely if violence was involved in the alleged offense. Hall said the court should begin to view breaking into a home in the same way.
"I'm tired of hearing how much it costs to incarcerate people or how expensive rehab is," Hall wrote. "The fact is law abiding citizens are paying the cost. Whether it's through the property stolen from you, the cost of insurance premiums, law enforcement time, and court prosecution costs, and let's not forget defense expenses, you are paying for it."
Property crimes are on the rise, Hall said, speaking mainly from his observations in and around Manchester. He said he would not be surprised to hear the number has doubled in the past few years. Many vandalism reports are in fact attempted burglaries, according to the chief.
Hall told the Banner he intends to speak to other local police chiefs and prosecutors to work on a legislative agenda to address the problem. That plan comes despite Hall's weariness with the issue.
"I'm giving myself a headache," the chief wrote in his most recent Facebook post, "... time to go."
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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