Drugs — the opioid epidemic — and property crimes are the two biggest menaces facing Knox County, Sheriff Tom Spangler told The Rotary Club of Farragut members at their meeting in Fox Den Country Club Wednesday, May 22.
“Those two are consistent,” he said. “They kind of go together.
Spangler was elected in August 2018 and sworn in Aug. 31, 2018. Accompanying him was Chief Deputy Bernie Lyon.
“(The crimes were) no different from when I was on patrol in the early ’80s all the way through the early ’90s,” Spangler said, noting those crimes include home and business burglaries and car break-ins — any kind of theft.
“Those type of crimes are probably your most popular crimes, if you will,” he added. “The biggest problem that we have within our judicial system is — because we are so overcrowded (in our jail) — we have people who have a violation of probation on them.”
In regards to Farragut, “obviously, we put cars where our largest volume of cars are,” he said. “Farragut is one of them, so we have more units out here than anywhere else in the county.”
Spangler observed the call volume in Farragut has increased.
”Knox County is growing, so obviously we have more people, which means the potential for either just people to call with questions or (report) a crime,” he said. “I would say the majority of calls that we get, which also are one of the most dangerous calls — is domestic-related … not just necessarily in the Farragut area.
“The Farragut area is not exempt, just like anywhere else, as far as those type of calls,” Spangler added. “Farragut is not immune to any type of call.”
To address complaints of speeding in Town limits, he said, “All we can do is any time we get requests for radar, we put it on our list.
“We’ll run a few days or what have you, and unfortunately, whenever we do that for few days and then we leave, the people get used to us being gone again, and they’ll start it back up,” Spangler added. “Continued neighborhood radars is what we’ll continue, and we’ll do them daily on request.”
Regarding drugs, Rotarian Chuck Laine asked Spangler his views on the recent marijuana bill.
“The law enforcement was against it, almost emotionally so,” added Laine, a lobbyist at the state level.
“It seems like there’s an appetite for medical marijuana in the legislature, but it seems to me the reason it died was because law enforcement was so against it.”
Spangler said the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association did not fight against the medical side of it, but it is against recreational marijuana because “we deal with people with recreational (marijuana) so much … we see what goes on with it. The fear is, ‘Well, it starts with that and here’s where it’s going to go.’”
On a similar note, Rotarian Valerie Privett asked what direction KCSO would take to slow down or correct the opioid crisis.
“I think we’re on the right track now with some of the groups we’ve been meeting with,” Spangler said. “You’re seeing groups now starting with their own programs, and that’s what it’s really going to take — is community involvement.
For his officers, however, Spangler said, “Every time you make an arrest there might be drugs involved to some extent.”
Besides community involvement, he said children need to be reached earlier, so he is bringing back the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.