A new initiative was announced Monday involving a combined local agency approach to interdiction with direct support from federal and state agencies. United States Attorney James R. Dedrick and Commissioner of Public Safety David Mitchell, along with other local, state and federal law enforcement representatives, held a press conference to introduce the "Interdiction Plus" Initiative.
"Interdiction Plus" will initially consist of three teams located in the Eastern District of Tennessee in the Tri-Cities, Knoxville and Chattanooga regions, with future expansion plans to cover the entire state.
The mission of the Tennessee "Interdiction Plus" Initiative is to enhance regional highway interdiction operations; to disrupt and dismantle terrorist and criminal organizations operating within Tennessee; and, to preserve citizen safety on Tennessee Highways through effective traffic and commercial vehicle enforcement, officials said.
Targets will include foreign and domestic terrorism; foreign and domestic drug trafficking organizations; kidnapping/bank robbery/carjacking/Amber Alerts/interstate theft; detection and enforcement of firearms and explosives; human trafficking/immigration violations; fraudulent documents/counterfeit money and documents; enforcement of state law violations and highway enforcement; and, fugitive apprehension.
"Interdiction Plus" will focus on vehicles, including commercial vehicles, traveling interstates, U.S. highways and state highways. Law enforcement agencies will provide a 24/7 response to investigate criminal activity discovered by the interdiction stops, with full investigative support provided when federal or state interests are detected.
Under the leadership of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, city police departments and county sheriff's departments will form regional teams consisting of between 10-12 officers with K-9 support. The teams will work with other state and federal government agencies by directing activities toward the interdiction of all criminal activity, including drugs, currency, illegal immigrants, weapons, counterfeit documents, terrorist activity, etc. The teams will have direct coordination with state and federal intelligence data bases/systems, including the new Tennessee Fusion Center in Nashville.
United States Attorney Dedrick stated, "Interdiction Plus is an exciting new initiative which will team up the Tennessee Highway Patrol with our police and sheriff's departments to mount a protective shield for our citizens from those involved in illegal activities on our transportation routes. These professional agencies will work with our other state and federal agencies to mount an aggressive investigative response against the many forms of criminal and terrorism activities we are faced with in today's times."
Commissioner Mitchell said, “The Department of Safety and Tennessee Highway Patrol are very excited about working with our local partners in this initiative. As the commissioner of safety and director of Homeland Security, I have been very impressed with the team work and partnerships that exists in East Tennessee. The sharing of intelligence and information with the men and women who protect our citizens and enforce the laws on our roads and highways will be the key to the success of Interdiction Plus.”
Local police and sheriff's departments in the Eastern District of Tennessee who have committed resources to this endeavor include: 4th, 8th, 9th and 10th Judicial Drug Task Forces; Bristol, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Clinton, Dandridge, Harriman, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Loudon, Newport, Oak Ridge, and Wartburg Police Departments; and, Sheriff Departments from Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Cocke, Coffee, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Marion, Monroe, Roane, Scott, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Warren, and Washington Counties. Officers/investigators from these departments, along with Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers and representatives from the Tennessee National Guard Counterdrug Division and Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, are receiving intensive interdication training this week in Knoxville, Tennessee, known as "Desert Snow."
The program includes workshops on topics such as roadside interview techniques, detection of hidden compartments, concealment methods and the identification of false documents. As part of the training, officers inspect a variety of commercial vehicles with hidden compartments containing drugs, bombs, portable methamphetamine laboratories and other contraband.
Former California Highway Patrol Officer Joe David started the "Desert Snow" program 17 years ago to train officers to spot cocaine smugglers. Since then, the program has expanded to include techniques for identifying potential terrorists and uncovering weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to the local police and sheriff's departments listed above, state and federal agencies involved in this initiative include Tennessee Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Drug Enforcement Administration , Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Bureau of Immigration Customs Enforcement, Social Security Administration, Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, United States Marshals Service; Internal Revenue Service, local sheriff and police departments, Appalachia HIDTA, Tennessee Department of Safety and Office of Homeland Security, Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, Tennessee National Guard, District Attorneys General; and the United States Attorney's Office.