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Authorities target pot grows in southwest Santa Rosa sweep

Dozens of combat-clad police officers, deputies and federal agents swarmed a southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood Wednesday morning in the region's largest-ever operation against residential marijuana gardens.

A team of 150 law enforcement officers raided 32 homes off Moorland Avenue immediately south of the Corby Auto Mall, where the pungent smell of marijuana hung heavily in the air and backyard marijuana plants towered over fences in plain view from the street.

Law officials, who suspected gang involvement with at least some of the gardens, arrested 13 people on a variety of drug and weapons charges and seized more than 300 plants from 32 locations, said Sonoma County sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary.

Marijuana Raids In Santa Rosa

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The raids began about 9 a.m. when FBI agents in full military gear ordered residents to leave, then rushed into their homes, most of them modest multi-plex units.

Soon the area was punctuated by the sounds of exploding flash grenades at several homes in the neighborhood, which is bordered by Highway 101 on the east and railroad tracks on the west.

After the homes were secured, officers carrying search warrants poured into backyards and uprooted hundreds of marijuana plants, piling the 6- to 8-foot-tall plants into giant heaps in driveways as neighbors watched.

The operation was planned after a recent complaint about rampant pot cultivation in the neighborhood, O'Leary said. A sheriff's helicopter surveyed the area and discovered more than two-dozen marijuana gardens in the backyards of homes along Barbara Drive, Eddy Drive, Robin Way and Neville Way.

"We just looked into this neighborhood and, literally, probably every backyard but two or three have a (marijuana) grow," O'Leary said. "Our goal is to go in there to rid the neighborhood of these, what we think are probably illegal grows."

One resident was not surprised when she learned the purpose of the raid.

"The whole street smells like weed," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.


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