H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Jun 9, 2011 9:45 PM by Ariel Wesler

Drug detectives calling on public to help stop outdoor marijuana grows

Santa Barbara County drug detectives need your help to stop deadly and dangerous outdoor marijuana grows.

Each summer, the sheriff's office says narcotics officers destroy hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants grown illegally in remote locations throughout the county. This year, detectives are distributing fliers encouraging people to report any illegal grows. The fliers explain what to look for and how to avoid a potentially deadly encounter with the growers.

Narcotics detectives say in the past five years, they've seen a steady increase in the number of marijuana grows countywide. A vast majority of the county is publicly owned. That makes it a haven for recreationists and marijuana growers.

"What can be a nice outing in the back country for someone in Santa Barbara County can become quite terrifying if they stumble into the wrong place," said Drew Sugars with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

So, detectives are trying a new tool. The flier has information on what to look for including people with irrigation equipment going into recreation areas at odd hours and vehicles entering areas not typically used for recreation.

"The people who are running these marijuana grows often times are very dangerous. They are armed and they have a lot a stake here. These are multi-million dollar operations," Sugars said.

"The sheriff's office says last year, it destroyed more than 325,000 marijuana plants totalling a street value of more than $900 million," Sugars said.

Not only are they illegal and dangerous, they cause serious environmental damage.

"They bring in pesticides. They run water through this area that pushes pesticides into the water shed. They started a horrendous forest fire, a couple of years ago, the La Brea fire, from one of their propane tanks," Sugars said.

A public plea to stop the pot problem.

The largest marijuana grow in Santa Barbara County history was discovered about three and half years ago outside of Lompoc. More than 90,000 plants were found, totaling around $270 million.

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