Crimetracker: Knoxville Police: Drug Free Zone law keeps streets safer

Rodney Harris (Courtesy: Knox Co. Sheriff's Office)
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Charlene Lee has lived in her North Knoxville neighborhood for seven years.

"I love this neighborhood, it's safe," she said.

She was unaware that convicted criminal Rodney Harris lives down the street from her. Officers started investigating Harris after tips he was selling crack out of his house. Lee said that's upsetting, since the neighborhood is full of kids.

"Of course kids are gonna - may get on it, make friends with the people - and of course, kids don't know better," said Lee.

Officers found two guns, 22 grams of crack and $3,000 and charged Harris with simple possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, unlawful possession of a gun and possession of a gun while committing a felony.

Just up the street and around the corner is a daycare, which falls under the Drug Free Zone law. Harris was also charged with possession with intent to deliver to cocaine within 1,000 feet of a daycare. That specific charge carries a longer sentence than a typical drug charge.

"It's a stiffer penalty. And with the stiffer penalty, they're going to be spending more time behind bars. That's going to keep them out of our communities and keep our community safer and we charge that any opportunity that we have," said Darrell DeBusk, with the Knoxville Police Department.

The Knox County District Attorney's office said if convicted, Harris will spend at least eight years behind bars on that charge alone, since it requires mandatory prison time.

Harris has a lengthy criminal record dating back almost 20 years. He's been convicted of vandalism, assault and sale or possession of cocaine, where he carried a gun or hurt someone.

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