The Narcotics Unit is part of the Fifth Judicial Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, which is comprised of personnel from BCSO, Alcoa and Maryville Police departments, and Office of the Attorney General. The Drug Task Force has one officer assigned full-time to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, TBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
In 2019, Task Force opened a total of 537 cases, up from 491 cases in 2018. Task Force agents made 385 arrests and maintained an 84% conviction rate.
Crystal methemphatime and heroin use continue to rise nationwide as well as locally. Much of the crystal methemphatime that comes into the United States is smuggled across the Mexican border, instead of being manufactured locally. Heroin is smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico and Columbia. As state and federal governments began cracking down and restricting the availability of painkillers, people who once relied on these narcotics began turning to heroin as a replacement. Law enforcement officials are seeing more heroin laced with Fentanyl, a powerful narcotic used to ease extreme pain. This added Fentanyl is used as a diluter for the heroin, but it increases its potency. In 2015, the DEA issued a nationwide alert, and as a result, the Sheriff’s Office launched the naloxone program. Naloxone is a known antidote for opioid overdose. The program was started with the assistance of Blount Memorial Hospital’s Substance Abuse Prevention Action Team (SAPAT). Every patrolmen is now equipped with the narcan nasal mist. In 2016, Sheriff’s deputies saved the lives of 11 individuals with the use of narcan.
Another program that continues is the Drug Take Back program, held in conjunction with SAPAT. The events are held annually in the spring and fall at the Blount County Justice Center. There is also a permanent prescription drug dropbox in the 24 hour jail lobby.