PHOTO: Melodee Jamison rides a Segway while Officer Ryan Howell looks on during the Franklin Citizen’s Police Academy class on Thursday, September 20, 2018./Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
Have you ever seen “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”?
It’s a film otherwise unremarkable except for the way it catapulted Segways into the national consciousness.
Actor Kevin James portrays a hypoglycemic man shaping up to join the New Jersey State Police by working security at a mall. He rides around comically during the film on a Segway.
As we entered week three of the Franklin Citizen’s Police Academy, “the Ryans” (Officers Ryan Howell and Ryan Schuman) explained the “alternative patrol technique,” which, you guessed it, means soon we are in the police parking lot flying around on Segways.
I think the 45 minutes of Segway riding was meant to break the ice before tackling the tough stuff.
Undercover unit: prostitution and shoplifting
Lt. Scott Legieza says that in 2010, the Flex unit was created to covertly deal with “hot spots” in the city.
From scoping out festivals and protests to serving warrants, gathering intelligence and busting up illegal prostitution, these specially trained agents work to support the criminal investigation division.
“Yep, you heard that right,” Legieza said, as people marveled at the thought of prostitution in town.
Undercover agents related stories of posing for prostitution busts. In an image, we see one of the male officers, clean-shaven and in a blonde wig, posing as a female prostitute for hire on the now-shuttered Backpages.com.
But much of their activity has also been aimed at reducing shoplifting, particularly at the Cool Springs Galleria Mall.
During a six-week holiday period in 2017, 125 offenders were arrested and $25,068 worth of merchandise was recovered.
What are the most popular stolen items? According to officers, infant clothing, athletic wear and anything from Victoria’s Secret.
Det. Jeffrey Rowe starts off by warning us his presentation won’t be pleasant. After over a decade on the force, he has carved out a niche as the resident expert in trafficking.
The definition of sex trafficking, he says, is to recruit or transport people by force, fraud or coercion to commit commercial sex acts.
It falls under the banner of human trafficking, whose largest group of victims is men transported throughout the country for forced labor.
The average age of a victim is 11-years-old for boys, and 13 for girls. Typically, they remain within the trafficking system for an average of seven years.
Rowe said the average doesn’t necessarily mean they escape the system; often, they die of a drug overdose or are victims of violence. For those who do escape, one out of seven are trafficked again.
The Franklin Police often refer victims to End Slavery TN, a nonprofit dedicated to training, care, advocacy and prevention of human trafficking in the state.
On October 24, Rowe will participate in a human trafficking awareness event, to be held at St. Philip Catholic Church in downtown Franklin. For those interested, the event runs from 6 to 8 p.m., and is free.
During a presentation on illegal narcotic use, an officer explained how the opioid crisis has impacted Franklin.
Opioids cause the most overdose deaths in the United States. Synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, caused nearly double the overdose deaths (29,406) in 2017 than heroin (15,956).
Officers conducting a drug bust with suspected amounts of these drugs will often don Hazmat suits, as officers have accidentally overdosed simply by exposure to drugs like fentanyl.
Franklin Police also carry Narcan, a spray that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
We saw five photos of a recent drug case in Franklin: a man had come to Williamson Medical Center with several balloons full of heroin in his stomach, a common way of transporting illegal drugs internationally. An emergency surgery had to be performed to remove the drugs.
Then, images of the amount of different opioids were flashed on the screen, in small cylindrical glass containers.
To overdose on heroin, one needs just a small amount of the granular substance.
Fentanyl, a pain medication typically given to those with end stage cancer, is measured in micrograms and is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin. One only requires a few grains to overdose.
Carfentanyl is 100 times more potent than fentanyl, even. In the final cylinder was one single, fatal grain.
In 2017, Sgt. Don Zelaya said the Franklin Police investigated 181 narcotics-related cases. As of August this year, they have investigated 134.
If you missed last week’s column, you can read it here.