Robberies jump, drugs are blamed

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -The number of armed robberies has increased this month and law enforcement officials say drugs are to blame.

With recent armed robberies in Hinesburg, Richmond, Irasburg and St. Johnsbury, the number has jumped to 13 in January. That outpaces other years’ totals.

Last year there were a total of 62 armed robberies and 37 in 2005.

The spike is driven by rising drug use, particularly the abuse of oxycodone and cocaine, said Vermont State Police Maj. Tom L’Esperance on Friday.

Other small states such Maine and New Hampshire have had similar experiences as drugs moved into their states, L’Esperance said.

Most of the armed robberies have occurred at stores near main roads or the interstate.

“They’re seizing the opportunity to run the corridors. There’s an easy avenue of escape,” L’Esperance said.

Police said they have arrested many suspects in the crimes. Two Massachusetts men and a woman were arrested Thursday following a jewelry store robbery in St. Johnsbury. Police believe one person may have held up the two stores in Hinesburg and Richmond and were looking for a dark colored Chevrolet truck that may have been used in once of the robberies.

The state police recommends store owners and employees take the following steps to reduce the risk of an armed robbery and to make sure no one gets hurt if one occurs:

• Never resist armed robbers. They might be under the influence of drugs and might not act rationally during a robbery attempt.

• Make sure your store has adequate exterior lighting.

– Install surveillance cameras.

• Report suspicious activity to local police.

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