Drug officers say they have confiscated more than $27 million in marijuana and arrested nearly 50 people in what's being called a historic drug bust in Clark County.
Thursday's bust of more than 50 homes netted about 7,000 plants, Vancouver police say.
The investigation, code-named Operation Gang Green, started in 2009 when the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force first learned of the marijuana operation. Since then, investigators say they've uncovered a major criminal enterprise.
"The massive scale of this marijuana growing operation is staggering and unprecedented in the history of Clark County," says Commander Mike Cooke.
The targeted homes are suspected of being linked to the Vietnamese drug operation that would transform regular homes into massive indoor marijuana gardens. Primarily, the drugs were shipped to the East Coast for sale, police say.
The raids started at 7 a.m. when 300 drug officers surrounded the homes, some of which had children inside.
Those arrested were led away in a caravan to be processed and many were still wearing their pajamas.
The suspects could likely face federal drug trafficking charges.
Cooke says the group behind the marijuana operation had made Clark County "a major producer of marijuana on the West Coast."
Drug task force officers say these type of home grow operations are becoming more common. Often times, neighbors have no idea until the day of a raid.
"It's scary, it's mind boggling," said Barb Miller who lives next door to a home in Vancouver raided over the summer. "It's incredible the amount of damage it can do."
Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force Commander Mike Cooke says converting a home into a grow operation can destroy it, or leave it with tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In some cases, officers have found walls and ceilings covered in mold from the humidity and condensation created by the plants.
In addition to mold hazard, officers say fire hazard can be created by the intense lighting and heat lamps needed to run the operation. The equipment used can easily overload the electrical system, as well as violate building and electrical code.
The effects spread beyond the individual home, according to Commander Cooke, who says grow operations invite crime into the entire neighborhood. The number of marijuana-related robberies has doubled over the past two years, according to The Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force.
Officers say anyone who suspects suspicious activity in their neighborhood should contact police. The drug task force says signs that you may be living next to a marijuana grow operation could include brown sludge on the exterior of the home, the sound of fans running constantly, an odd smell, or people who occupy the home during the day, but leave at night.
Tuesday, July 29 2014 6:53 PM EDT2014-07-29 22:53:48 GMT
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