Record quantity of pot seized statewide in 2006
Raids on California marijuana gardens have bagged a record quantity of the drug for the second straight year, but less than half the number of raid-related suspects, the state Department of Justice reported Thursday.
The department said law enforcement agencies statewide have seized more than 1.2 million pot plants so far this year, compared with more than 1.1 million in 2005.
The street value of this year's contraband was estimated at $4.9 billion, up $400 million from the value of last year's seizures.
The Department of Justice noted a trend toward fewer but much larger pot-growing operations. This year's larger haul of seized drugs came from only 335 sites - at least one containing more than 20,000 plants - versus the 753 plots seized in 2005.
But as the amount of marijuana found has grown, the number of suspected cultivators arrested fell to 18, from 42 a year earlier.
As crime syndicates have moved pot growing to ever-remoter sites in California, marijuana gardens increasingly are found in dense forests that allow growers an easy escape before a raid, according to Mid-Valley law enforcement agencies.
Drug seizures in Colusa County, whose western reaches include parts of the Mendocino National Forest and Indian Valley/Walker Ridge Recreation Area, reflected the state trends.
During July and August, three raids in a 15-day span netted more than 36,000 plants but just one suspect - the Colusa County Sheriff's Department's first arrest linked to pot growing since 2003.
The Colusa County figure, a one-year record, was just behind those of the top six California counties - Shasta (where more than 204,000 marijuana plants were discovered), Lake, Mendocino, San Bernardino, Fresno and Santa Clara.
An Aug. 31 raid near Dobbins in the Yuba County foothills led to the destruction of 8,500 plants and the arrest of another suspected caretaker.