Hamblen deputies round-up accused dope dealers

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Prescription pain pills are both legal and safe, as long as their used correctly. But when they end up for sale on the streets, it's a crime.

That's why the Hamblen County Sheriff's Department is sweeping the streets clean.

So far, 19 people have been arrested for selling drugs as part of what deputies have dubbed the "Summer Slam" operation.

They were arrested alone, in groups and as husband and wife.

Deputies and detectives hit the streets early Wednesday morning to serve more than two dozen warrants to suspected drug dealers in Hamblen and Jefferson counties.

Sgt. Frank Lane says, "At this point, the case has already been made, and jury has already decided we're just going in to round the individuals."

Operation Summer Slam is a four-month undercover investigation of people who travel to Florida for pain medication.

Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnagin says, "They rent a van, 15 people will go down and they get a prescription for Oxycontin, whatever their pick is."

But it becomes a crime when those pills get sold on the streets.

"It's frustrating to us," Jarnagin says. "Until they sell those pills, they are in legal bounds of the law."

Deputies conducted the drug roundup as the sun came up.

"Most of our suspects stay up a majority of the night and don't go to bed until 4:00, 5:00 in the morning," Sgt. Mike Vaulton says.

The suspects were a bit sleepy and surprised, and as one patrol car brought suspects to jail, more deputies headed for yet another house.

"It's a success so far," Lane says, "no officers been hurt and no suspects been hurt taken into custody."

The sheriff says the arrests made in Jefferson County are a result of the crimes committed in Hamblen County.

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