Blount County – Across East Tennessee, officers have been trying to come up with ways to stay on top of the growing meth problems in their community. In Blount County, the sheriff’s office said it might have an answer with a creative twist on a tip-line system.
Similar to Crime Stoppers, the caller must give tips that lead to an arrest. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office said the program is about tracking down meth cooks.
“We’ve always tried to be, or thought that we were a little ahead of curve,” said Captain Ron Talbott. “Over a period of time, it’s kind of caught back up to us. So instead of being proactive, we’re having to react that now that are numbers are obviously going up.”
In 2013, officers have already seized 21 meth labs in Blount County. Talbott said the first quarter of 2013 was 200% higher than the first quarter of 2012.
Talbott said he came up with the idea of a cash incentive program while mowing the lawn one day.
“Money drives everybody,” said Talbott.
Talbott said the cash reward system will help officers track down who’s cooking meth.
“Typically a ‘smurfer’, if you will, or a person that’s shopping for pseudophed for meth cooks, they will make the purchase of pseudophed and then they’ll take it to a meth cook and either exchange it for drug, or they’ll exchange it for anywhere from 40 to 50 dollars, they’ll sell it,” explained Talbott.
Talbott said the cash reward available might make smurfer’s think twice.
“We will pay them $100, which is double what they are going to typically make,” said Talbott.
The cash reward is available to anyone who meets three requirements. In order to earn $100, the caller must provide information that leads to an arrest of a meth cook, the seizure of a meth lab, and be in Blount County.
“I think it’s very unique. I don’t know of any place else that is doing this particular thing,” said Talbott.
The Director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, Tommy Farmer, said he has not heard of a cash reward system for meth.
“I think this is an out of the box, creative idea for them to do this. Ah, to promote those relationships and to get people to call them,” said Farmer.
Farmer said Tennessee is still on track to be number one in meth lab busts. Statewide, officers have seized 840 meth labs in 2013. That’s an average of seven per day, and 25% to 30% higher than this time last year.
“I think that they’re doing may ultimately result in more arrests now, and more lab seizures now, but I think that’s potentially an investment in the future,” said Farmer.
“Hopefully it’ll drive some meth cooks away,” said Talbott. “Maybe meth cooks will go somewhere else if they know they’re going to be told on in Blount County.”
If anyone has information on potential meth cooks in Blount County, they are asked to call the Drug Task Force Hotline, at 865-977-7266.
Talbott said if this system does not work, the Blount County Sheriff’s Office will continue to look for new ways to combat the growing meth problem in the area.
“We’re just trying to do our jobs, trying to think of new ways to stay ahead of the game.”