RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office reported at least 15 fatal drug overdoses this year. Now the department is one of five across the country with new crime fighting technology geared towards battling the opioid epidemic.
It’s a device from Viken Detection, a Massachusetts based company. Jim Ryan is the CEO and said they noticed how challenging it can be for law enforcement to safely search a vehicle for drugs or contraband. He told News 2 this device will make it easier.
“It’s a simple point and shoot device that I have in my hand here. It’s an eight pound instrument an officer can run along any part of the vehicle, press the button and an image appears on the screen to show what’s behind it. So typically, if there’s nothing in there, you’ll see a black screen. But when there are organics there– drugs, cash, explosives, this machine will pick up that anomaly in the vehicle. It will alert the officer there is something there that shouldn’t be there.”
Ryan said the company started a Valor program to assist law enforcement fight the opioid crisis.
“We got a lot of applications. We started out with five law enforcement departments. We went through a process with a third party to go through applications. We picked our first five and as it goes, we will now continue to do it and try to help with this epidemic across the country.”
Rutherford County Deputy Evan Sharp said his department applied and received the device in July.
“It’s a handheld X-ray device. It shoots up to three times the thickness of a car door. So, there’s nowhere inside the vehicle that you could put stuff that you won’t be able to see.”
Sharp said having this device allows deputies to do a more thorough search on scene and detect contraband quicker. He said they’ve found drugs or contraband in areas of a vehicle such as car batteries, tires, door panels and any other hiding spot you can think of. Sharp said this technology will also create a safer environment for them.
“It gives our deputies a better opportunity and prevents them from possibly being exposed to chemicals such as fentanyl and possibly be injured.”
So far this year, there have been 75 overdoses across Rutherford County. Narcan has been used in 50 of those instances. Public Information Officer Lisa Marchesoni said Emergency Medical Services responded to 1,298 overdoses there in the last two years.
Deputy Sharp hopes this new technology will help lower that number.
“What we are looking to do is find the individuals that are supplying the narcotics into the county and local areas. If we can go out and use this device and get contraband, if that’s able to limit that number just by one– that’s a success for us.”
Ryan said he’s happy to be a part of the fight against an crisis that impacts so many.
“I think its hard to be in the U.S. and not be personally touched somehow with this crisis. When we thought about this idea, we are a small company, but we wanted to make a greater impact. We are under fifty people up here in Boston, but we are incredibly passionate about what we do and why we do it. Any way we can help take drugs off the streets, if that just saves one life every time we do that, or saves a family from incredibly grief, we are happy to be a part of that.”
Sharp plans to teach several other deputies at RCSO how to use the device, and has a special warning for anyone thinking of bringing drugs into the area.
“We have a lot of deputies who have very good training and they know what they’re doing. We just have to get it right once, so if they’re coming through Rutherford County, they need to be weary.”