The Knoxville Police Department announced Friday that investigators have shut down a large-scale heroin distribution ring that stretched from Chicago to East Tennessee.
KPD Chief David Rausch said the investigation started in June 2012, when neighbors complained about suspicious activity at a home on Spring Valley Road. They identified a suspect, Alfred Williams, also known as "Mumbles," and began an investigation.
Rausch says Williams later moved the operation to a house on Massachusetts Avenue, and that's where a search warrant was eventually served. Officers seized a 1/2 ounce of heroin, a gun, and $3,000 in cash. Williams was arrested and charged.
Neighbors say they were suspicious of the house.
Gladys Davis has lived in the house next door to where Williams stayed for 17 years.
"One car would pull out, another would pull in," said Davis.
She says now she's too scared to remain the neighborhood and made plans to rent a new apartment this morning.
KPD says it was complaints of neighbors and prompted the investigation.
Eventually, investigators identified 19 people who were involved in this conspiracy to distribute heroin from Chicago to Knoxville, and other local areas, including Sevierville. They were indicted on various drug charges by a grand jury. Currently, fourteen people are in custody.
Chief Rausch says the dealers introduced people already addicted to prescription pain killers to heroin, which is much cheaper.
"We're seeing heroin come in as a cheaper alternative. And yes, it's coming in to the area in large amounts and so we are very concerned," said Rausch.
Rausch says prescription drug addicts can spend $80 for one pill. But he says some of the dealers were selling"hits" at $10 each.
They estimate some of the dealers arrested sold 100-200 doses a day.