KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Drug trafficking has become a significant issue here in East Tennessee and authorities say that many of these crimes can be traced back to groups in Detroit, Michigan.
Law enforcement agencies have been trying to get a grip on the issue for years.
Several East Tennessee District Attorneys on Thursday launched a new joint plan called the 313 Initiative, in reference to Detroit’s area code.
Law enforcement and East Tennessee District Attorneys said they want the name to be a warning sign to anyone looking to participate in these drug trafficking crimes.
“The 313 initiative is a conservative organized effort by state and local law enforcement officials to identify, target and dismantle drug traffickers that are coming through Detroit, Michigan, and the surrounding area,” Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said.
Allen added that drug trafficking has led to more crime and drug-related deaths in the past several years here in East Tennessee,
“In Knox County alone, we had 39 suspected overdose depths just last month in January,” she said.
Law enforcement has tracked several of these cases back to Detroit, Michigan.
Interstate 75 runs directly from Michigan through Knoxville all the way down to South Florida.
“We are tired of the deaths, crime, and violent activity that results in that drug trafficking and we as district attorneys with partner with our law enforcement friends to send that message,” Fifth District Attorney Ryan Desmond said. “They will arrest, they will gather that evidence, and then we will strictly apply the laws to the state of Tennessee to seek harsh penalties to those who are bringing these dangerous substances into our community.”
The 313 Initiative allows multiple law enforcement agencies to share access to information so they can work together to try to stop drug-related crimes.
“If you’re communicating with people from Knoxville we’re going to know ahead of time because we’re already going to have their phones, we’re going to know exactly who those individuals in Detroit are,” Desmond. “So if you’re coming into East Tennessee, you better be aware because we’re already on the lookout for you. We’re already building cases against you before you’ve ever gotten here.”
This initiative has been in place for a few months now and according to the district attorneys it’s working.
Since the initiative began law enforcement has seized 42 pounds of methamphetamine, nearly eight pounds of fentanyl and heroin, 29 guns, and has made 46 Detroit-connected arrests.