Police weeding out marijuana: Hundreds of plants eradicated in searches
Corning, N.Y. -
Tips from the public dwindled, weather conditions impeded searches and more-pressing cases took precedence. Despite those odds, local police agencies were still able to eradicate hundreds of marijuana plants during the late summer and early fall. Every year, local law enforcement agencies track and destroy marijuana-growing operations – which can be found in nearly every corner of Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties. The most notable time of year is late summer and early fall, when outdoor marijuana plants are ripe for harvesting and subsequent sale or use. Police use tips from the public, air and ground searches – which include searching known growing areas – and other techniques to locate marijuana operations in the area. This year, local sheriff’s offices reported an average year of eradication, collectively, with some having more success than others. The Steuben County Sheriff’s Office reported an average haul of marijuana plants this year. It eradicated approximately 300 plants. Its biggest bust – Sept. 22 on Welty Hill Road in Lindley – led to the seizure more than 150 plants and $25,000 worth of growing equipment, Sr. Inv. Eric Tyner said. Michael Magner, 54, was charged with unlicensed growing of cannabis. That arrest was the result of a tip from the public. Undersheriff Ray Dell said Magner has been a suspected marijuana grower since the 1980s. Beyond the Lindley sting, Tyner said eradication was largely uneventful. According to Tyner, the sheriff’s office did not use air surveillance as much as in the past. Because the summer’s wet weather made everything green later into the summer and fall, marijuana plants were too difficult to spot from above. “We did more ground searches this year,” Tyner said. Also, tips from the public were down this year, police said. “We still had some good tips,” Dell said. “One of the tips came from the West Cost.” Approximately a half-dozen arrests were made this year in Steuben County in connection with marijuana-growing operations. Chemung County Sheriff Christopher Moss estimated deputies collected less than 500 plants, a decrease from other seasons. Fewer tips and weather were a factor, he said. He said his agency worked in conjunction with the state police on three or four operations. Other than that, deputies followed up on tips. But, Moss said, his agency was working many more-serious narcotics investigations involving cocaine and methamphetamine. “If we get a tip, we certainly act on it,” Moss said. If a large operation is suspected, surveillance of an area, including the use of cameras, is conducted, although it’s not a cost-effective technique for small operations, Moss said. The Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office may have had the most successful eradication season in the area. During an average year, the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office usually eradicates 200-300 plants, according to Lt. Craig Gallow, who works in the investigation division. This year, 306 plants were seized. The largest bust conducted by the Schuyler County Sheriff’s Office occurred in mid-August when police seized 109 plants from a property in the town of Hector. A large quantity of equipment was also collected. Despite all the plant seizures, a relatively few number of arrests were made in Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler counties. Moss and Dell said growers often use public land or someone else’s private property to cultivate marijuana in order to avoid detection. Outdoor growing operations cease when cold weather arrives, but many growers simply move operations indoors, officials said.
By John Zick