100 SW Dade ‘grow houses’ found in first half of year

Has southwest Miami-Dade County become the center of South Florida’s “grow house” problem?

Lt. Jose Gonzalez presents Miami-Dade’s focus on “grow houses.”

Lt. Jose Gonzalez presents Miami-Dade’s focus on “grow houses.”

“Seventy percent of marijuana ‘grow house’ cases this year occurred in two of Miami-Dade’s nine police districts: Hammocks and South districts,” said Lt. Jose Gonzalez who heads an MDPD Narcotics Bureau Unit.

Through the first six months of 2014, areas covered by two southwest Miami- Dade police districts have uncovered 100 grow houses,” he said.

On June 20, a 62-year-old woman was discovered with 90 marijuana plants within a Hammocks District neighborhood in the 14600 block of SW 63rd Terrace, a crop that translates to 88 pounds of the drug, worth over $300,000 in street sales.

“Neighbors knew her as a quiet and good-natured woman for years,” said Maj. Arnold Palmer, Hammocks District commander. “She’d greet them while out walking her dog.

“Reports of suspected violations come in almost every day,” he noted, adding that a recent arrest uncovered a marijuana grow house adjacent to the back yard of the district’s police station at 10000 SW 142 Ave.

The two veteran officers painted a dim future for curtailing the spread of weed horticulture throughout Miami-Dade, not-ing legislation is likely due for approval to allow legal growth of “medical marijuana” throughout Florida.

Both emphasized a single word summed up the reason for expansion: “Money.”

“A pound of marijuana on Miami-Dade streets sells for $3,500,” Lt. Gonzalez told a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Miami-Dade Police Hammocks District at its June 25 meeting. “In Colorado, the going rate is for a pound of medical marijuana is $6,500. Need I say more?”

Estimating that 4,000 Florida residents would benefit from the medical use of the drug use, the Narcotics Bureau veteran said medical marijuna grown indoors “delivers a high of 17-20 percent, compared to the outdoor- grown product’s 6-7 percent,

“That’s another reason for grow house product desirability,” he added.

Citing physical dangers to neighbors of a grow house next door, Lt. Gonzalez described explosive potential of volatile propane tanks needed by grow houses to oxygenize plants.

“Extreme heat generated by 400-watt lamps from illegally tapped FPL meters combines to provide a high explosive potential,” he said, adding that police often are handicapped by search warrant procedures, “even if we can detect a strong smell coming from a suspicious home. The odor is much like that of Society Garlic,” a peppery leafed plant, often used in salads.

“Police, however, cannot obtain a search warrant based only upon detection of a suspicious odor,” he said.

Both officers urged homeowners to use their common sense if observing “uncommon” activity in a neighboring household.

Obtaining search warrants to enter suspected households also ban use of potscenting dogs, Maj. Palmer pointed out, urging homeowners who have any suspicion of nearby grow houses to immediately telephone a report.

“Specifically, ask for an officer to come to your house,” he stated. “If your telephoned report did not bring an officer to your door, let us know. We’ll follow up on every call when an officer may only do a drive-by inspection, rather than appear at your doorstep to get more details.”

The majority of tips disclosing potential grow house locations are received through Miami-Dade Crimestoppers telephone (305-471-TIPS/8477). Callers are guaranteed anonymity by assigned control numbers. Rewards of up to $3,000 result in cases that lead to an arrest and filing of criminal charges.

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