(Update: Sheriff's office provides details, photos, says arrests expected)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Charges and arrests are expected in the near future after neighbor complaints prompted a series of three raids on allegedly illegal marijuana grow operations around Deschutes County, sheriff’s deputies said Thursday as they revealed more details of the operations.
Sheriff’s office Marijuana Enforcement Detectives, assisted by the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement (CODE) Team and sheriff’s office SWAT Team, served three search warrants Wednesday morning in relation to the ongoing criminal investigation, which is continuing Sgt. William Bailey said.
The investigation began after detectives received complaints from neighbors about the odor, the validity of the grow operations and more, unfamiliar traffic in their neighborhoods.
The first raid took place at a property in the 51200 block of Festis Avenue, west of La Pine, Bailey said. At that location, 132 illegal marijuana plants and more than 31 pounds of illegal processed marijuana were seized, Bailey said.
Detectives also found apparently unpermitted structures and electrical work being used to support the grow operation. Bailey noted the electric work presented a possible fire hazard, threatening nearby public lands and the safety of homes and families in the area.
One neighbor in La Pine who lives near Festis Avenue told NewsChannel 21 many neighbors had complained and were aware of the marijuana operation in the area.
"There are many neighbors who wanted this cracked down for a long time," Robert Lite said. "Almost next door, there's a family over there with children. What I was told is that those folks have complained about the marijuana growers for a very long time. They’ve complained that they have children there and it smelled awful.”
Over the past two years, there have been at least four illegal marijuana grows raided in the La Pine area, Bailey said.
The second search warrant was served at a home in the 18600 block of Riverwoods Drive, in Deschutes River Woods, south of Bend, Bailey said. A felony amount of butane hash, or honey oil (BHO) and a firearm were seized at the location.
The third raid was conducted at a property in the 65100 block of North Highway 97, between Bend and Redmond, where nearly 750 allegedly illegal marijuana plants were seized.
Bailey said the marijuana enforcement detectives (MEDs) “would like to thank the legal marijuana businesses within Deschutes County for their collaborative efforts in combating illegal marijuana within the county.”
“The knowledge the MEDs received from focus groups confirms that illegal marijuana within Deschutes County is a major concern for the legal marijuana market, residents and businesses in our community,” he said in a news release.
“The MEDs receive funding to support their positions from taxes that are collected from the recreational marijuana market,” the sergeant continued. “Marijuana tax (revenues) can be used for schools, drug treatment centers, public health and law enforcement. The Deschutes County Board of Commissioners approved the funding for the Marijuana Enforcement Detective positions.”
Since the detectives began their operations in July 2018, Bailey said, “they have encountered multiple unknown subjects and 43 firearms while serving marijuana search warrants. The MEDs would like to thank the DCSO SWAT team for their specialized skills and commitment for the safety to the suspects, area residences and law enforcement officers in these operations.”