EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Police call it the "Heroin Highway," a pipeline of drugs, weapons and cash running through dozens of communities - and right in Southern New Englanders' backyards.
WPRI 12 has learned police are concerned not just about the drug trade but also about the violence it brings into local neighborhoods, which has law enforcement teaming up to crack down on traffickers.
- Photos: Heroin Highway Contraband
Officers say Interstate 195 in Rhode Island is the main artery for the drug trade in the region. WPRI 12 got exclusive access to the special police task force charged with patrolling the stretch of road: the South Coast Anti-Crime Team, or SCAT, which is made up of 15 local police departments working under the sheriff of Bristol County, Mass.
An undercover narcotics officer, who asked not to be identified because of the nature of his job, offered an exclusive look at one of the tricks drug traffickers use.
He opened a secret compartment hidden away in the trunk of a car that was confiscated in a recent drug bust.
"Inside this compartment was $39,500," the officer said. "We see this time and time again." It's just one of the ways he's seen criminals move drugs into local neighborhoods.
The authorities say drugs are routinely trafficked from Providence - which police have dubbed "the heroin hub" - down Route 195 and into communities as far away as Cape Cod.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said the South Coast Anti-Crime Team "was developed to not only to deal with drug issues and drug addiction, but also to deal with serious crimes in the communities throughout Bristol County and in Rhode Island."
The task force focuses on more than the "Heroin Highway." It handlea up to 100 cases each year, ranging from organized-crime investigations to shutting down meth labs.
WPRI 12 got a firsthand look at the team in action as officers swooped in and arrested three suspects on Route 195 in East Providence, confiscating more than $15,000 in cash. Police believe the men were on their way to buy drugs with the money.
Sheriff Hodgson said SCAT is unique because the departments share information and resources, working together across city and town lines.
"It's a way to bring together an incredible amount of intelligence," said Hodgson, who added teamwork has a far-reaching impact, putting drug dealers behind bars and reducing violence on local streets.
"They bring the security back to the neighborhood where families can start to feel empowered again," he said, "and say, you know what, we are going to help so we can keep this neighborhood safe."
Copyright WPRI 12
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