TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. — Tipton County is a mostly quiet, rural area, but WREG investigated years worth of crime data and discovered a sharp increase in drug crime in the county.
"It makes me sick, and as a sheriff it makes me sick," sheriff Pancho Chumley said. "I don't like any crime in Tipton County, and Tipton Countians don't like the crime."
The data starts in 2014 with a steady climb, but there have been massive jumps since 2017. Crime rates have spiked 41% in general narcotics offenses and more than 73% in narcotic equipment offenses. As a result, Tipton County Law Enforcement has started to push back.
"We will not tolerate it," Chumley said. "We will do whatever we have to do as aggressively as possible to get them out of this county. They're not welcome, period."
"There may be some criminals who think that our rural, nice, quiet community in Tipton County is a good place to commit crimes," district attorney Mark Davidson said. "That's not the case. We're not going to tolerate it in Tipton County."
Law enforcement in Tipton County said it finds most drug-related crime is connected to the same thing that drives violent crime: gangs
"When you have these powerful drugs out on the street, and you have gangsters involved in dealing them, using guns, then violence follows," Davidson said.
Authorities have ramped up their response to the increase in crime.
Local, state and federal authorities have teamed up for various efforts, including Operation Crime Driver earlier this year. They said it wiped out a large part of gang hierarchy, and they continue to actively pursue the most dangerous and violent offenders in the area.
"We're gonna hunt you down, charge you and take you out of the community," Davidson said. "That's my message to them. It's not going to end well."
"We will remove you from our streets, and there's a long prison sentence awaiting you if you think you want to victimize our communities," West Tennessee U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant said.
Residents are also starting to band together. One group is "Drug Free Tipton." Combined with law enforcement efforts, the community has some hope.
"We try to prevent the problem before it starts," Drug Free Tipton Director Robin Racine said. "The theory is, the later in life a youth first picks up a substance, the lower the odds they'll grow up to abuse that substance."
"If we can help them and get them out of the criminal justice system and into recovery and back to being productive, we're going to do that," Davidson said.
If you have any information related to a drug crime in Tipton County or anywhere else in the Mid-South, contact CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.