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HPD criminal patrol unit is tackling drug problem

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By Richard Evans

Though it has only been operating as a unit for a little more than a month, the Criminal Patrol Unit of the Harriman Police Department has already made an impact in the ongoing fight against drugs.

“The CPU actually went into effect in mid-December and their first full month was January. The CPU was put together with one mission: Stop the drug traffic in Harriman,” said Police Chief Baron Tapp.

In January, the unit made 77 traffic stops, which led to 59 total arrests.

Of that number, 19 were drug-related arrests, 19 non-drug-related arrests and 21 people with outstanding warrants.

“They have really been getting after it,” Tapp said.

During the city council meeting last Tuesday, Mayor Wayne Best acknowledged the efforts of the department.

“I have noticed the drug unit has been out. I see them everywhere. It looks good,” Best said.

Detective Kasey Mynatt, Officers Richard Woods, Jeff Coffey and Logan Vitatoe make up the CPU.

Tapp said plans for the unit were well underway before he returned to the department in August of last year.

He pointed out that for all of the hard work the CPU is doing, the rest of the department is working just as hard.

“It’s a team effort from the whole police department. Overall, the number of drug-related arrests are just soaring. Our patrol officers are making drug arrests also. The whole department is putting forth a great effort to battle this problem,” Tapp said.

Lt. Darrell Owenby said that while meth, heroin and marijuana remain a problem, the most common drug abuse/traffic the department sees is prescription medication.

He pointed out that HPD is working with the Roane County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney General Russell Johnson’s office, Kingston Police Department and Rockwood Police Department.

“We have regular meetings with them [other departments] and the D.A. has given us his blessing in us working together,” Owenby said.

“We’re all working together in this. It’s not just our drug unit or our department. It’s a common problem. Nobody wants to live in a neighborhood full of drugs,” Tapp said.

He said that getting drug offenders off the street is also helping cut the overall crime rate because so many other crimes such as theft, burglary, traffic violations and violent crimes are often drug-related.

Tapp said he has appeared at several churches in the city, talking about drug awareness and has plans to visit more churches.

He hopes to be able to host a community-wide drug awareness program at the Harriman High School gymnasium in late May. Details are still being worked out for the event.

“What we want people in Harriman to know is if you’re messing with drugs, we’re going to catch up to you,” Tapp said.