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Drug Task Force Aims to Track Overdoses Back to Dealers

KNOXVILLE - As the death toll continues to climb, Knox County authorities are using every tool they have to catch those responsible for bringing drugs into East Tennessee.

A newly established drug overdose task force is using a top-down approach to fight the OD epidemic.

"The role that law enforcement plays is to hit the dealers, hit the folks that are prescribing wrongfully these opioids into the community," said Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen. "We are trying every way that we know how to stop the dealers from bringing the stuff into our community."

The joint task force between the District Attorney's office, the Knoxville Police Department and the medical examiner's office works to investigate every overdose death in the county and then tries to trace the drugs back to where they came from.

Using cell phone records of the victim, security camera footage, and other evidence collected at the scene, the task force traces the drugs back to the dealers that sold them.

Often times, drugs come into East Tennessee from outside of the state and even outside of the country and are eventually distributed by local dealers.

In certain cases, charges of second degree murder can be brought against the dealers, in addition to charges for selling drugs.

"The key to being able to successfully prosecute these homicides for the dealers is to be there at the beginning, right when the overdose happens to get law enforcement on the scene to be able to take the information at the scene, take the phones, and start processing them immediately," Allen said. "To find out where the person who overdosed got their drugs, who they've been talking to and then work the case backwards to go up the chain to find out where those drugs came from."

So far, the district attorney's office has indicted six cases since the task force was started last April.

There have been 210 suspected overdoses already this year.

August is on track to be the deadliest month. So far, 22 people have already died from suspected overdoses and we are not even halfway through the month.

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