MONTPELIER - Illegal drug use is the biggest challenge facing Vermont law enforcement, according to Kerry Sleeper, outgoing public safety commissioner.
Sleeper, who announced earlier this month that he's retiring after 30 years as a member of the Vermont State Police, said more state and federal help will be needed to combat the problem.
"The substance abuse problem has the potential of changing our state more significantly than any other issue that I've seen in my 30 years," he said. "The challenge we're facing is we have limited law enforcement resources, and our state is being targeted by out-of-state organized dealers, gangs."
The rise in violent crime is tied to the rise in drug use, he said.
"It brings a new culture of violence into this state," he said. "We're seeing it, whether it's in growing crimes stats or anecdotally if you read the newspaper every day, with home invasions, armed robberies, aggravated assaults."
After he steps down, Sleeper hopes to work in Washington, D.C., to increase funding for local and state law enforcement.