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Drug Related Death Task Force Named Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force of th

Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area announced the Drug Related Death Task Force as its Task Force of the Year. Task Force Commander, Sgt. Josh Shaffer of the Knoxville Police Department, accepted the award at AHIDTA’s executive board meeting in January on behalf of the task force.

Founded under the direction of AHIDTA, the task force consists of the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office, Knox County Regional Forensic Center, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, Knoxville Police Department, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The goal of the task force is to pursue the disruption and dismantling of drug trafficking organizations which, ultimately, leads to fewer overdose deaths in our community.

The DRDTF has strategized an interdisciplinary approach to investigating overdose deaths and prosecuting drug dealers under both state and federal drug trafficking laws, including death statutes, wherein second-degree murder charges and penalties may be included. During 2018, the Drug Related Death Task Force investigated well over 100 deaths suspected of being drug related. These investigations led to the arrests of 34 individuals in state and federal court for death-related offenses or drug distribution charges.

Strategic collaborations, such as working alongside the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, have allowed the task force to streamline and improve investigations into fatal drug overdose cases. The task force also gains intelligence about the opiate epidemic which can be used by member agencies and others across the country to fight this increasing problem. As other communities across the nation have begun to see a rise in drug-related deaths, the task force has become the leading "go-to" for assistance in working these types of cases. At the award presentation, Executive Director Vic Brown said, “This task force has become a model for similar task forces nationwide.”

Specifically, the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office analyzes data collected by the DRDTF and releases an annual report detailing connections between overdose victims and the criminal justice system. The task force also shares real-time data on the District Attorney’s website that is shared with the local media to raise awareness about the effects of dangerous drugs sold in the community.

“As a task force, we have been extremely successful in dealing with the supply of lethal drugs in our community. I would like to thank all of our partners in this fight. In particular, members of my staff who are on the front lines and behind the scenes working to improve public safety and reclaim lives not yet lost to the opioid epidemic,” said Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen.

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