Five detained in suspected human trafficking
By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger
Law enforcement personnel swarmed in armored tactical vehicles and a helicopter early Friday morning, Oct. 22, as they raided two apartment buildings in Rutland as part of an investigation into illegal drugs and human trafficking.
Police said at one of the locations, 146 Maple St., Vermont State Police troopers and federal Homeland Security Investigations special agents found evidence of potential human trafficking, including a padlocked apartment door and several chain-link storage areas.
Three women were found behind the padlocked apartment door, according to a statement issued by Vermont State Police. The women, who did not appear to be injured, were checked and cleared by medical personnel, police said.
The women were being interviewed on Friday, according to the statement, and a victim witness advocate who specializes in human trafficking was at the scene.
By 3 p.m. Friday, no arrests had been made as a result of the raids at the Maple Street apartment house or one nearby at 47 Baxter St.
Rutland Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said Friday afternoon that five people had been detained.
“We’re questioning those people right now as we continue our investigation,” he said. “I expect arrests to be made but I’m not sure when that will happen. It will depend on how the investigation proceeds.”
Kilcullen said the investigation leading to Friday’s operation started several months ago.
“When we began looking at the activity on Baxter Street of what was suspected to be suspicious drug activity, it ultimately led to potential human trafficking activity,” the police chief said.
Kilcullen said he couldn’t comment further on the human trafficking probe.
“We’re still in the process of the investigation,” he said. “It’s very active and ongoing.”
Two armored tactical vehicles, one from Vermont State Police and the other from Homeland Security, transported “a large number of law enforcement involved in today’s operation,” the police chief said.
He estimated that two dozen law enforcement personnel from federal, state, county and local agencies took part in executing the two federal search warrants Friday morning.
No one was injured as a result of the operation, and Kilcullen said no weapons were discharged.
Sharon Davis, a longtime member of the city’s Board of Aldermen, lives on Baxter Street, though on the opposite end, less than half a mile from where the raid took place.
She said she had already gone to work before the raids, though she did get text messages about it soon after and also followed Facebook postings about it.
Davis said the apartment house on Baxter Street where the raid occurred had its windows boarded up by the time she returned home Friday afternoon. She praised the efforts of law enforcement in carrying out the raid.
“The neighbors unfortunately put up with a lot,” Davis said. “I’m glad it was accomplished. It’s wonderful to clean up these neighborhoods.”
She said when she heard that the raid was underway, she thought it was at a different apartment building. “There is another house, I won’t name, in the area that has come up to me a couple of times. I certainly have brought it to the mayor’s attention and Chief Kilcullen’s attention,” she said. “Maybe next time.”