Major drug busts are up: TBI brings down twice the number of dealers compared to this time last year

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has made twice as many big drug busts as they did this time last year, but local law enforcement worry there are more dangerous drugs moving through the state.

In the past five months, investigators have made big busts when it comes to drugs in the state.

“It does not, it does not surprise me,” said Lt. Shannon Heflin, with the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office.

Heflin sees these major drug rings all too often and says it’s not shocking that drug busts are on the rise. It’s not small quantities that law enforcement is after, instead, they are focusing on the street drugs that are being collected by the hundreds.

“It’s out of control,” Heflin said. “Just due to the fact that there’s more money out there, of course, supply and demand, there’s going to be more drugs put on the street.”

Meth, marijuana, and opioids are among the most common drugs being distributed and sold. According to the TBI, at least 800 meth labs are operating at any given time, and now other drugs are showing up and causing concern.

This week, a Nashville woman was arrested after undercover officers found two kilos of the hallucinogenic drug, commonly known as DMT. Agents tell News 2 DMT alters mental perception. They say it is typically seen a handful of times a year in TBI’s crime laboratories and presents as a powder or sometimes a capsule or waxy material.

The drugs were selected for “an intense exam” by U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer at the FedEx hub in Memphis, disguised as “natural body paint.” Drug Task Force officers say oftentimes dealers will do whatever it takes to operate undetected.

This time last year, the TBI had brought down three large drug operations, and this year they have already doubled that amount. It’s a trend Heflin says the pandemic has contributed to.

“I think what people don’t realize is that law enforcement also had restrictions put on us, so most of our specialized units that get out there and work on drug cases, you know we were restricted. We couldn’t get out and do the things that we normally do to deter drugs and get them off the street,” said Heflin.

According to the TBI, 80% of crime in the state can be linked to drugs. The agency says the figure contributes to the rise in homicides, and it’s a worry among law enforcement.

“Most times these drug dealers, there are guns involved, so they have guns, so there is definitely a high potential of violence when you’re dealing with that level of drugs,” Heflin said.

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