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Vermont police arrest 33 in cocaine, heroin sweep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Vermont police arrested 33 people on drug charges on Wednesday in a sweep aimed at tackling the state's growing heroin and cocaine problem, according to the state police.

The operation followed a six-month investigation by the police drug task force of rising drugs flows into the Green Mountain State from cities such as New York and Boston.

The sweep included house searches and seizures in Springfield and Ludlow. Officials have not said how many drugs, money or material was discovered in the searches.

Traffickers seeking to take advantage of higher street prices in Vermont towns have been sending in more drugs from other areas of the northeastern United States in recent years, triggering what officials have called an epidemic.

"There isn't a Vermonter that doesn't know someone that is addicted to opiates or who has had their home or property broken into by someone who is addicted," said Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn in the press release.

The sweep targeted 36 people, most on cocaine or heroin trafficking charges, but three escaped arrest and are believed to be out of the state. If convicted, they face between five and 20 years in prison.

Vermont in June became the 17th in the United States to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in an effort to focus the state's limited resources on combating drugs such drugs heroin.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Scott Malone and Andre Grenon)

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