The Sacramento Police Department will be cracking down on illegal marijuana growing operations by the end of the month, officials confirmed Tuesday.
The SWAT team will be leading the charge, assisted by code enforcement officers and building inspectors. Assistant City Manager Arturo Sanchez assured Sacramento City Council members that the program targeting illegal grows can begin in two weeks.
Several recent marijuana-related crimes prompted Councilwoman Angelique Ashby to ask local agencies to develop an “urgent plan of action” last month. In July, vehicles were driven into the garages of homes growing marijuana on two occasions. Earlier this year, two people were killed outside a suspected grow house in south Sacramento.
Ashby said during the meeting there are at least 100 grows in her district.
“I am not willing to allow the crime that happens around those homes to continue without taking extreme measures,” she said.
Staff from the city Attorney’s Office assured the council that the city is working closely with its office to ensure people growing illegally are prosecuted.
Joe Devlin, head of the Office of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement, gave the council several options for curbing illicit weed grows throughout the city.
One was to use the SWAT team to combat the grows. A second option would pull three sergeants and 12 officers from patrol to create a new team. The city manager’s office recommended a combination of the two – using the SWAT team for three months, then transitioning to a dedicated team.
City staff hope the SWAT team can lessen the problem so a dedicated team won’t be needed all the time.
Devlin previously estimated there are 1,000 illegal growing operations in Sacramento. Police have responded to 76 marijuana-related robberies so far this year, and the Sacramento Fire Department has handled 11 marijuana-related incidents, according to a council report.
Councilman Allen Warren reiterated his concerns that his district, which includes North Sacramento and Del Paso Heights, is disproportionately affected by illegal grows. He said people have been buying commercial property in preparation for growing.
“It makes it unaffordable for traditional retail businesses to come in and revitalize these areas,” he said.
Two other marijuana-related ordinances were on the consent calendar this week. One repeals an existing 400-square-foot limit for personal indoor cultivation, replaces it with a six-plant maximum and requires that all the plants be grown in one room. The other rewrites a 2010 ordinance regulating marijuana dispensaries to match new regulations for cultivation, manufacturing and testing approved earlier this year.
Both will be brought before the council for debate in coming weeks.