Interstates Make Knoxville A Hotbed for Drug Trafficking

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Knoxville (WVLT) - The Tennessee Highway Patrol tells WVLT the two major interstates that run through Knoxville can be a dangerous target for drug trades.

It's something you may not think about as you're driving along I-40 or 75, but THP tells us drug traffickers love the two interstates and they do their best to blend in.

"If something's coming from Florida, Texas, anything South, it's got to go north and the eastern part of the United States. Which means it pretty much has to come through here," THP Trooper Howard Greenlee took us on his patrol route along Interstate 40 Monday, keeping a close eye out for drug traders.

"A lot of trafficking, as far as interstate traffic, is a lot of cocaine, marijuana, things of that nature," Greenlee says troopers have to know what to look for when they pull someone over. "People being overly nervous, people that fall into a spectrum. There's just different attitudes."

And often times different stories tip them off, "If there's two people in the vehicle, sometimes you'll have conflicting stories on where they're headed, what their purpose is."

And once they suspect drugs, Greenlee says that's when it becomes much more than just a traffic stop. "It's called criminal interdiction. You're looking not only for narcotics, fugitives, things of that nature, guns."

And that's when a trooper's safety becomes priority.

"We try to have backup, at least two officers there if you are going to do a search of a vehicle," Trooper Greenlee.

Greenlee says he can't help but think of Trooper Calvin Jenks as he patrols now.

"It's very tragic. I mean, it's something that doesn't happen a lot here in Tennessee," Greenlee says. "It makes you more aware at times. You don't want things like that to happen."

Greenlee says people trafficking drugs on the interstate are finding better ways to do it now. "They're getting more intelligent on how they're hiding stuff, concealing and transporting different vehicles, and we're having to keep up with them."

Trooper Greenlee says they're constantly training to look for drugs in unusual compartments of vehicles.

Greenlee says fortunately drivers out here on the interstate are rarely in danger because traffickers will typically drive the speed limit to avoid getting pulled over in the first place.