Community Crime Law Licensing Local News

L.A. County Sheriff and other officials announce crack down on illegal marijuana operation

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a joint operation to take down multiple illegal marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley.

Almost a year after the most extensive drug operation in the history of the Sheriff’s Department took place, Sheriff Alex Villanueva returned to let everyone know that the operation continues to this day. In the first four months of 2022, the Marijuana Eradication Team (MET) served 116 marijuana cultivation-related search warrants. One hundred seven people were arrested, 100 were misdemeanors, and seven were felony arrests. Approximately 101,090 marijuana plants were seized, 53 firearms were confiscated, and 14,980 pounds of harvested marijuana were destroyed.

Continuing in the spring of 2022, LASD narcotics investigators conducted aerial reconnaissance with the California National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. They identified 350 outdoor cultivation sites in the Antelope Valley, down from over 750 locations in 2021. This reduction in cultivation sites is directly related to increased enforcement efforts in the Antelope Valley.

MET investigators served search warrants at 80% of the identified sites and anticipate they will have 100% eradicated by the end of the fall of 2022. Most of these sites are connected to Mexican Cartels, Asian organized crime, and other organized crime groups. These illegal cultivation sites threaten the safety of communities, the environment, and wildlife. The unpermitted water wells being drilled to water the illegal crops affect underground aquifers.

“We’ve already identified the problems that this causes here in the Antelope Valley. Downstream, illegal cannabis dispensaries in the basin are a source of extreme amounts of violence. You have robberies, you have murders that we’re handling. Other agencies have to handle in the basin, and they’re all tied to the cash trade down in these illegal dispensaries. In fact, illegal dispensaries outnumber the legal one 50 to 1. That will give you the size of the magnitude of the problem that we’re handling right here,” said Sheriff Villanueva.

“Supervisor Barger is thankful to the partners that are gathered here today for their diligent efforts to keep combatting illegal cannabis cultivation. Please know that you can continue to count on Supervisor Barger’s support,” said Helen Chavez on behalf of Supervisor Barger.

“To any of those who are engaged in the illicit grows, I want you to know that there is a collective effort, and we’re coming after you. You can see, right here in these trailers, where your product is going to end up, and it’s not going to be on our streets. You’ve come after a very sacred thing: our community, you’ve come after our desert, and you’re stealing our water, you’re poisoning our land, and enough is enough! Said Assemblymember for CA 36th District, Tom Lackey.

In July of 2021, the LASD Narcotics investigators created the email address MarijuanaTips@lasd.org. This was done to facilitate and expedite the ability of residents to provide information directly to the detectives investigating marijuana cultivation cases. Detectives strongly encourage the public to use this email address to help eradicate this problem by the fall of 2022.

PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO

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