KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two Detroit men arrested on multiple drug-related charges are just the latest in a large rise in such offense so far this year. According to a Knoxville Police spokesman, preliminary data is showing a roughly 79% increase in drug and narcotic reports citywide this year compared to 2020.

The two men arrested Friday by the Community Engagement Response Team, or CERT, came after several complaints of illegal drug use and sales from residents in the Depot Avenue, Central Street and Magnolia Avenue area. Cursory data shows there have been more than 60 reports of drug and narcotics violations in that part of the city this year. An offense could be a report or arrest.

Mayor Indya Kincannon touted the work of the newly formed task force on Thursday in her remarks expressing confidence in Chief Eve Thomas. Kincannon says CERT has provided “focused crime deterrence and response in areas of higher crime.”

The news of drugs and narcotic offenses on the rise makes sense when looking at the rise in drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 Fatal Overdose Victims and Criminal Justice Report released July 1 stated 413 people died in Knox County due to a drug overdose, a 41% increase from 2019.

According to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center’s latest drug-related death report, fentanyl, methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine were the top four drugs found through autopsies in the county.

Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said the pandemic has had a devastating impact in the community’s health and social wellbeing.