KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Fourteen people have been arrested in connection with a heroin ring with links all of the way up to Chicago, the Knoxville Police Dept. announced. In all, police said 19 people have been indicted on a total of 38 charges.
According to Chief David Rausch, the dealers were able to market heroin as cheaper alternative to pain pills. He said the shift to the use of heroin has been "dramatic." He added that this is the first time they've seen heroin used at such high levels since the 1970s, pointing out, though, its a much different formula now.
Rausch said they were moving at least 100 to 200 bags per day in Knoxville and Sevierville. So far, authorities have seized around $10,000 and five vehicles.
The investigation included both the KPD and the Sevierville Police Dept, as well as the FBI.
Police say Alfred Williams, also known as Mumbles, is the man at the center of it all.
The drug distribution followed him from his first home on Spring Valley Drive, to Massachusetts Avenue. Both homes were in Knoxville.
"This all started with a neighbor calling and complaining about a location that they thought was selling drugs. We were able to put the investigative effort into it, and determined that they were absolutely correct," said Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Dept.
Chief Rausch says this is the first real presence of heroin since the 1970's. The reason for the comeback is that it's cheaper.
Prescription pills are too expensive for some users, so dealers are turning them onto heroin, which is less expensive, but also more dangerous. It's only ten bucks a hit, but since it's so new to the area, many don't know how powerful the drug is.
Chief Rausch says the number of people overdosing on drugs is increasing too.
"Taking a chance with their lives that they don't need to be taking. This drug, we need to do the best we can to diminish it in our community," said Rausch.
Lori lives on Massachusetts Avenue now, and says she knew of Williams, but stayed away.
"What they did at their house was their business. It had absolutely nothing to do with me, I just tried to keep my nose out of it, and keep my nose in my house," said Lori.
Lori and her next-door neighbor Gladys knew something illegal was going on at the home. There were cars coming and going constantly, many staying until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning.
"I'm scared of this neighborhood now," said Gladys. "There's too many drugs on this street, and I'm scared."
After 17 years, she said she's had enough and is moving out.
"It's not unique to Knoxville, this is something my peers throughout the country are also experiencing," said Rausch.
He's hoping this bust is a step in the direction to wipe this problem out before it becomes an epidemic.