Hamblen County deputies bust nearly 60 criminals for pill abuse

Hamblen County deputies bust nearly 60 criminals for prescription pill abuse

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By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) - Nearly 60 people were arrested Saturday in Hamblen County, all thanks to the largest drug bust in county history.

The target of operation "Pills Kill" was people using and selling prescription pills.

The Hamblen County Sheriff's Department says it's the single biggest drug problem they have.

"You're to the point now where everybody has got pills. It's everywhere," said Hamblen County Sheriff's Deputy Sergeant David Cribley.

Eight months of undercover work led to Saturday's bust.

25 deputies started serving warrants at 5 a.m.

"They get the prescription. They take what they can take then they sell what they can sell to make money to buy more pills with," said Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin.

Jarnagin says the problem of prescription pill abuse is like an epidemic in Hamblen County.

"Drugs are the number one killer in our county right now under the age of 65," said Jarnagin.

Many of these deputies have lived in Hamblen County their entire lives and say drug use has gotten steadily worse.

They also say it often leads to other crimes.

"Be it robbery, burglary, assault. It all started with drugs previously," said Cribley.

The amount of people they arrest for drug use right now is staggering.

"We are running out of places to put them. My jail is overcrowded," said Jarnagin.

That's why they showed up on people's doorsteps Saturday morning, rounding up criminals all at once.

"We come to work everyday hoping that we can change somebody's life for the best and if it's for them going to jail that day because of something they've done, then so be it," said Cribley.

They want to stop the cycle of people who buy and sell prescription pills.

"Hopefully, them going to jail is going to teach them a lesson that when they come back out, it can't be tolerated," said Cribley.

"We're gonna do everything we can to make this community a safe place to live and raise our families," said Jarnagin.

Because drug abuse is such a huge problem in Hamblen County, Sheriff Jarnagin says on Monday morning, they'll begin another undercover operation in preparation for the next county-wide bust.

In the last five years, the Hamblen County Sheriff's Department has conducted eight multiple-warrant drug busts.

Saturday's bust is the largest one to date.

They've also busted more than 50 meth labs since Sheriff Jarnagin took office.

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