Florida – Statewide Law Enforcement Operation Targeting Suspected Tydroponic Marijuana Grow Houses



Timothy Wagner, Director, South Florida HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County State Attorney, and Robert Parker, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department, announced the preliminary results of a coordinated law enforcement effort aimed at dismantling suspected hydroponic marijuana grow houses throughout the State of Florida. This operation, coordinated by the South Florida HIDTA in conjunction with the Central Florida and North Florida HIDTA offices, created a coalition of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in 48 Florida counties.

The operation culminated on Wednesday, April 30, 2008, with the seizure of 9,249 marijuana plants from more than 150 homes throughout the State, and the arrest of 135 individuals involved in residential hydroponic marijuana labs. In the South Florida tri-county area, this round-up yielded more than 3,400 marijuana plants from 75 grow houses, and led to the arrest of 74 individuals. The resulting cases will be prosecuted by local and federal authorities.

HIDTA is an initiative of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. South Florida HIDTA, in particular, encompasses Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties. The mission of the HIDTA program, nationally and locally, is to disrupt the domestic market for illegal drugs by providing assistance and support to participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to dismantle local drug trafficking networks. Since its inception in 1990, HIDTA has been a key player in multi-agency federal, state and local drug task forces throughout South Florida. The Operation being announced today is an example of the strong coordination that exists among HIDTA regional programs.

The main goal of today’s Operation is to unite federal, state and local officials in an effort to combat the rise in hydroponics grow house laboratories in the State of Florida. In many areas, the illicit cultivation of hydroponics marijuana has become an organized criminal enterprise, accompanied by a noticeable increase in violent crimes, including home invasions, armed robberies, kidnapping, arson, and homicides committed in furtherance of the criminal enterprise.

Tim Wagner, Executive Director of the South Florida HIDTA, stated, “The explosion of these residential marijuana grow labs has brought about the need for unprecedented cooperation between all levels of law enforcement throughout Florida. I’m happy to say that law enforcement in Florida has risen to the challenge as evidenced by yesterday’s record-setting accomplishments. We plan to continue our coordinated attacks on the organizations responsible until this serious threat to Florida communities is eradicated.”

U.S. Attorney Acosta stated, “The United States Attorney’s Office is glad to support HIDTA and its efforts. The HIDTA task forces enable us to work more closely with our state and local law enforcement colleagues to combat illicit drugs.”

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle states, “Today, organized crime is attempting to expand the drug trade into everyone’s neighborhood through the virus-like increase in hydroponic grow houses. The violence and gun activity, which are always a part of the atmosphere associated with these perceived high-profit enterprises, can easily spill out onto our streets. I applaud the cooperative efforts of our state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies as they bring down these organizations and keep our neighborhoods safe.”

The success of this operation is due in large part to the cooperation of residents affected by hydroponic marijuana labs in contacting local law enforcement with leads. These leads were used throughout the State to identify the houses searched in this operation. Residents are encouraged to continue to contact local law enforcement to provide the information necessary for law enforcement to locate and dismantle residential hydroponics marijuana labs.

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