Sheriff’s Aviation Unit Uncovers Pot Farms

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Knoxville (WVLT) - More than $125,000 dollars in marijuana plants have been seized in Knox County thanks to an aviation unit of the sheriff's department.

The first find was two weeks ago and the second was Wednesday.

Volunteer TV’s Kim Bedford shows us how the helicopters give the department a lift.

"One of our flight crew had gotten some information from an individual out in the county and said that they had heard that somebody may have possibility been growing some marijuana,” Chief Deputy Tom Spangler says their aviation officers took off immediately toward the Strong Road area. "It was an open field. They just weren't sure exactly where it was, and with the trained eye that our guys have to do, they were able to spot some plants in a field."

They say they found about 48 plants, totaling at least $100,000. And just two weeks prior, their aviation officers discovered 50 plants worth $25,000 near Oak Ridge Highway.

"We don't want our children or anybody else to get a hold of these when they put them out on the street. We're stopping some of the trafficking that's going on,” Chief Spangler says outdoor marijuana finds in Knox County have gone down over the past few years with their helicopters in the air. "Our aviation unit is out and about, and the people know that we're out there, so we're looking."

And they're still looking for the suspects who recently planted the marijuana.

"It was on property, obviously owned by someone, and these people weren't aware that it was there. So somebody's taken advantage of them not being able to walk their property or whatever,” Spangler says on-the-job training for the aviation officers gets these marijuana plants off the ground. "You get up in the aircraft and the marijuana plants put off a different look than everything else does. The vegetation is completely different."

Chief Spangler says this trained eye and advanced equipment should give Knox Countians a safe feeling.

The Knox County Sheriff's Department has six aviation units.

Last week, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department destroyed more than 16,000 marijuana plants at various sites in the county.

The street value is estimated at more than $24 million dollars.