A new federal designation for Anderson County will mean more federal funding for the county’s drug and violent crime task force and a full-time agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Anderson County is now a high-intensity drug trafficking area, or HIDTA. That designation came from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. It occurred in September and will go into effect January 1.
As part of a two-part announcement this month, law enforcement officials said the White House also selected the county’s task force, the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force, as an Appalachia HIDTA, or AHIDTA. It’s the only locally led drug task force in Tennessee, according to Seventh Judicial District Attorney General Dave Clark. The county’s Crime Task Force, or CTF, is led by Director Simon Byrne.
“No other drug task force in Tennessee has been awarded an AHIDTA grant,” Clark said. “I am very proud of our leadership team for thinking outside of the box and in looking for smart ways to make our communities safer as well as be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We are more excited than we can convey, but in short believe that this development has the potential to be transformative as to what we are able to do in Anderson County to protect and serve our communities.”
The county will receive $132,500 in grant funding for the task force. That money will be used for undercover operations, overtime, travel, training, and equipment, officials said during the December 17 announcement.
“This was a big accomplishment for Anderson County and our law enforcement partners,” said J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Some equipment will include computers and furniture, but some equipment, which could be covert, can’t be described, Clark said.
If the task force performs well, the HIDTA designation and funding will continue, Overbey said.
He said that only 13 counties were designated this year of all the applications that were received from across the country, and three were from Appalachia.
The ATF agent will work full-time with the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force at an undisclosed location in Anderson County, and Clark said the Crime Task Force will be able to work with the ATF daily.
“We’re very happy to be a partner in this,” said Frank A. Haera, assistant special agent in charge of the ATF Nashville Field Division.
Clark said the Crime Task Force agents will have access to ATF guidance and criminal intelligence resources.
“Being part of the AHIDTA organization means that there are criminal intelligence specialists, IT (information technology) specialists, and other human resources at the AHIDTA headquarters in Kentucky that will be supporting our law enforcement efforts,” Clark said. “It means that there will be access to AHIDTA covert equipment. It means that there will be specialized AHIDTA training for our agents. It also means that the Seventh Crime Task Force joins a network of HIDTA task forces and agents that may assist one another in criminal investigations throughout the country.”
Clark said the designations announced this month were the result of a two-year effort by the Anderson County law enforcement command staff. The HIDTA designation was the result of applications submitted by the Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force.
“Our application was based principally upon the location of I-75 in Anderson County and the demonstrated success of the Seventh Crime Task Force in past narcotics-fighting operations,” Clark said.
Law enforcement officers expect that the new HIDTA designation and the partnerships it creates will make Anderson County a better and safer place to live, Clark said.
During the HIDTA announcement this month, law enforcement officers said I-75 is a major north-south trafficking corridor that stretches from Detroit to Atlanta, and there are connections to cartels south of the border, including for the delivery and sale of methamphetamine. Other drugs of concern on the I-75 corridor are cocaine and heroin.
The Seventh Judicial District Crime Task Force was organized in Anderson County in 2008, and it typically investigates narcotics, violent, and complex crimes. It is staffed by officers assigned by member agencies, which include the Seventh Judicial District Attorney General’s Office, Anderson County Sheriff’s Department, ATF, Clinton Police Department, Oak Ridge Police Department, Oliver Springs Police Department, and Rocky Top Police Department.
Bryne said the Crime Task Force, which is governed by a board of directors, has seven full-time narcotics investigators from three agencies, and several criminal investigators have been assigned.
HIDTA is a federal program created in 1988 to match funding and other resources with high-intensity drug trafficking areas, and the grant program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Most of the counties in the metropolitan Knoxville area are HIDTA counties.
The HIDTA program is managed by regional headquarters throughout the United States. The Appalachia HIDTA covers Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The ATF, Overbey, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation endorsed the application to the Appalachia HIDTA and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation was also a joint applicant, Clark said.
He gave credit to Lieutenant Danielle Alexander of the Clinton Police Department, who played a major role in preparing the most recent AHIDTA application; to Clinton Police Chief Vaughn Becker, who led the 2019 application effort; and to former Clinton Police Chief Rick Scarbrough, who was instrumental in moving the county to apply for and become a locally led AHIDTA task force. The ATF and Overbey were supportive during the two-year application process, and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Chuck Fleischmann, both Tennessee Republicans, endorsed the application once it reached the White House, Clark said.
Clark said there are FBI and DEA task forces in Knoxville.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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