Arrests unlikely in county marijuana raid

RobertCraftP7218674

RobertCraftP7218674

The chances of making arrests are low, but Marion County sheriff?s officers continue to work in partnership with the Kansas Bureau of Investi?ga?tion in regard to the Sept. 24 discovery and destruction of a significant marijuana-growing operation several miles south of Peabody.

?Realistically, it?s difficult to say who was there unless you actually find them at the location,? Sheriff Robert Craft said Monday about the possibility of filing charges. ?Once they?re gone it?s difficult to gather enough evidence to place a certain individual there.

?We?re working with the KBI and giving them all the information we?re gathering at the scene and going forward,? he added.

Acting on a call from an individual who had discovered several cultivated marijuana plants growing in the designated area, a combined force of 10 officers from the sheriff?s office and Marion, Florence and Peabody police departments initially discovered about 100 plants in cultivation.

By the time episode was complete, officers had removed and destroyed around 2,100 cultivated marijuana plants that were scattered about in several plots.The plants ranged 2 to 7 feet tall and had a combined street value estimated to be close to $2 million, Craft said.

An encampment had been established by the growers in the wooded area as a base for their operation, but it was unoccupied at the time of the raid, according to Craft.

?We?re not sure what caused them to abandon the site,? he added. ?It appears to have been abandoned rather hurriedly, and it looks to be two to three weeks since anybody had been there.?

Acting on a tip from a land?owner, law enforcement officers found about 3,000 marijuana plants in neighboring Butler County the day after the discovery near Peabody.

Craft and other law enforcement officials with the investigations believe the two operations are the work of the same group of growers.

 

?It appears to be an extremely similar set-up camp and production system,? Craft said. ?We believe they?re connected.

?I?m not going to say it?s a cartel,? he added, responding to the use of that word in the media. ?It?s similar in scope to what Mexican nationals do as far as coming in, setting up a camping situation and growing and living there while they?re in production.?

Because of the potential for violent confrontation, Craft said he and his fellow officers prepared carefully before entering the area.

?We gear up and make sure we have enough officers and enough arms to safely enter the area,? he said.

?We try to make a plan on how we?re going to enter, who is going to search and where we?re going to go so we have a clear idea of what we?re going to do.?

Craft said the person who owns the land used for the operation near Peabody was ?totally unaware? of the illegal activity.

?They find a piece of ground that looks likely to be unused or undisturbed for the period of a summer during the growing season,? he said of the growers.

?So they set up these little plots and cultivation areas throughout the region. They?ve been numerous this year, far more this year in the state than in past history.?

Many of the illegal plots are discovered later in fall as hunting season begins, Craft said.

?Hunters are out in these places that up until now had no humans all summer.?

The sheriff has advice for landowners who want to prevent marijuana growers from moving onto their property for their illegal activities.

?If they have pieces of ground like this, that are seldom disturbed by themselves or others, just kind of keep an eye on them,? Craft said.

?If you notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, call us. Please don?t go in. These guys typically are armed and are willing to protect their investment.?

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