KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Every day, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers with the specially trained Criminal Interdiction Unit are on the interstates.
Not only are they looking for drivers violating traffic laws, they're also keeping an eye out any criminal activity that might be occurring inside the vehicle.
Recently, 6 News rode along with the unit to find out what kind of crimes they see on our roadways.
The THP Criminal Interdiction Plus Unit heavily patrols both I-40 and I-75 and other interstates. They make hundreds of stops every day.
Sgt. Greg Roberts is in charge of the unit's east bureau.
"We have multiple drug and crime corridors throughout the state of Tennessee on those interstate systems," said Sgt. Roberts.
Interstates run across the country, making them trafficking routes for all kinds of criminal activity.
"Just as many times as they are passing through Tennessee, their destination is Tennessee," said Sgt. Roberts.
There are 18 troopers specially trained statewide. Sgt. Roberts says the Criminal Interdiction Unit troopers have regular training to keep up with the traffickers' trends.
"There are some extreme, elaborate, concealed aftermarket compartments on vehicles these days, which we have to overcome," said Sgt. Roberts.
THP's Interdiction Plus Unit makes hundreds of traffic stops every day and every day they make multiple arrests for a wide variety of criminal activity.
"We are making stops every day from very minor misdemeanors to major felonies including murder, including human sex trafficking, human trafficking or aliens within the country," said Sgt. Roberts
Sgt. Roberts says drugs, guns and money are also being seized during traffic stops.
Often illegal pain pills are discovered, but now, because the crackdown has driven up the cost, the drug of choice is shifting.
"Victims get hooked on the pharmaceutical medication and it just becomes too expensive to support that habit, so they move to a cheaper drug which gives a similar high, which is heroin," said Sgt. Roberts.
Before and during a traffic stops, troopers with the unit are looking for signs of other illegal activity. There are many signs both visual, sometimes with the car, and behavioral with the occupants.
While 6 News tagged along during a traffic stop for speeding, the trooper smelled marijuana, which gave him probable cause to search the vehicle. Troopers found a jar with possible marijuana residue.
"We believe that this jar was probably full of marijuana at one point today. Ziplock bags to go along with it means it could possibly be marijuana for the intent to resale, which is a felony in this state," said Sgt. Roberts.
THP also discovered a marijuana pipe, but no narcotics.
"It looks like he'll be at least cited with speeding and possession of drug paraphernalia and he'll be on his way," said Sgt. Roberts.
In a few hours, several traffic stops were made. A distracted, swerving driver was pulled over and given a warning. Also a convicted felon's car was searched. Drug paraphernalia was found.
But these were lesser violations compared to other busts the unit has made. One past search resulted in $4 million being seized.
"That currency was undoubtedly going to be shipped out of the country, probably to a cartel in Mexico," said Sgt. Roberts.
He says THP's Criminal Interdiction Plus Unit will do whatever is necessary to keep the public safe.
"Stopping a lane violator, stopping someone who may be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics or whether it be searching a vehicle and stopping a murder from being committed or stopping a human trafficking case," said Sgt. Roberts.
Six years ago, the criminal interdiction plus unit was formed. The goal is to have better communication and cooperation with local agencies to stop crimes from occurring across the state.
Sgt. Roberts says statistics show the unit has been successful in catching crimes and keeping illegal substances off the streets.