Meth is a big problem across East Tennessee. As quickly as laws are passed to fight the epidemic, meth makers find ways to get around them. It really is a cat and mouse game. That's why Clinton Police Department is shifting its focus trying something new to keep meth makers from getting the ingredients to make the drug.
Signs inside Clinton Drug Store remind customers if you want pseudoephedrine, you have to get it behind the counter. A real time database keeps meth makers from buying it over and over. They're finding ways to get around that though. People police call "smurfs" buy the drug then sell it to meth cookers making a hefty profit. Clinton Assistant Police Chief Vaughn Becker says, "A ten dollar box sells for as much as 50 to 70 dollars."
Now, Clinton PD is cracking down on those "smurfs" teaming up with pharmacies. It's a two pronged approach. More officers spend more time in drug stores, and pharmacists are keeping their eyes open notifying police if someone suspicious tries to buy. Clinton Drug Store Owner Jim McBride says, "We don't sell near what we used to. We don't average 2 transactions a day at most."
Chief Becker says, "I think we're making a dent in smurf sales. I really think so."
Pharmacist Jim McBride takes the fight one step further. McBride says, "We have a rule that we only sell to Anderson County. If they're traveling from Knox County, chances are there is a red flag there."
Chief Vaughn says smurfs are often wanted in other crimes, and provide good intel for other investigations.
Chief Vaughn says the best way to spot a smurf is if they are from out of town, or if they come into the store in groups looking only for the drug.