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KCSO Links More than 430 Theft Arrests to Opioid Epidemic

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Knox County Sheriff's Organized Retail Crime Unit Task Force's work during the holiday season resulted in the arrests of more than 430 adults.

Deputies confiscated and returned loads of merchandise during the 2017 operation from Nov. 20 to Dec. 30.

At a 2:30 p.m. news conference Tuesday, investigators announced that 433 people were arrested during the operation. 57 minors and four fugitives from justice were also taken into custody.

Investigators connected the high number of shoplifting-related arrests to the widespread opioid epidemic in East Tennessee.

"We got over 400 people off the streets, and I bet you the high 90 percent of those people are addicted to some form of opiate," KCSO Chief Lee Trammel explained.

Officers recovered $96,000 worth of stolen property, four stolen vehicles, and seized $9,600 in cash. Drugs like meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana were reportedly taken off the street along with two guns.

When asked directly if the number of thefts were linked to opiates, Trammel said, "I don't think there's a question."

The task force is in its sixth year. Authorities said they're still looking at ways to stay proactive and improve the task force.

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