OPIOID CRISIS: How drugs travel to the Tennessee Valley
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation estimated that there are 800 meth labs in Tennessee at any given time. But not all drugs being used in our area are made in the United States. Some of the substances travel over 1,300 miles from Mexico to get here.
Sergeant Dax Mcgowan with the Cleveland Police Department has been fighting the rise of opioids for almost two decades. He says a majority of the crimes he investigates involve opioids. “Your burglaries go up, and your tips go up. People are not stealing things to pay their house payment. They are stealing things to afford their addiction,” said McGowan.
Marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and now fentanyl are the four drugs officers encounter daily. Mcgowan says these opioids are produced in South America, travel to port cities like Miami, then carriers make their way to hubs like Atlanta. Eventually, they end up in places like Cleveland.
McGowan said dealers selling product hide in plain sight at places like grocery stores and gas stations, which makes it hard for officers to catch everything. “They’re selling dope down here, and they’re selling dope all the way up north. So, there’s a seven-mile difference,” said McGowan.
Cleveland’s crime suppression unit is seeing an increase in the creation of fake tablets that contain fentanyl since the drug enforcement administration started cracking down on doctors who prescribe the medication.
Mcgowan said the goal for a drug dealer is to give users a stronger high for less money. “You don’t know who is making that drug at the time. That makes it very dangerous for the community, said McGowan.
According to the TBI, In the last year, Cleveland has seen a 60% increase in drug and narcotics charges. And, McGowan says their work is far from over as drug distribution changes constantly. “Just like any other business, you research. Drug dealers are not stupid especially the ones that don't get caught.”
McGowan said his unit focuses on high-level targets when dealing with drug dealers in hopes of getting an edge in the fight against the opioid epidemic.