Sonoma County police seize 328 pounds of pot in anti-trafficking campaign

Sonoma County police seized more than $400,000 and 328 pounds of marijuana during a fall campaign to stop drug traffickers on Highway 101 during the outdoor marijuana harvest.

Led by Santa Rosa and Petaluma police, departments dedicated officers sometimes several days a week from August to November to patrol major thoroughfares.

On the lookout for marijuana going south and cash going north, the focus is the highway, an artery between the Emerald Triangle to the north — Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties — and the Bay Area to the south.

The sight of patrol cars from Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Cotati and Rohnert Park along the highway and sometimes as far north as Cloverdale has some critics asking if cities can afford it.

But law enforcement officials said proactive patrols to stop drug traffickers, even outside city limits, is part of the job.

"What are our cops doing up in Cloverdale? Criminals don't recognize the boundaries of jurisdictions," Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm said.

This fall was the third season county agencies have collaborated on "drug interdiction," although patrolling to intercept illegal drugs is far from new.

After years of working separately, members of the Sonoma County Law Enforcement Chiefs Association discussed coordinating teams and areas of focus.

"We have a transient society that is using the car as a means of committing crimes," Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons said. "A lot of people will stop here to get gas, food, they're spending the night."

In past years, Rohnert Park, the county sheriff's office and federal agents were involved. This year, those agencies did not take a major role because of scheduling and resource concerns. Sebastopol's canine officer went out on just one day, Chief Jeff Weaver said.

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