Pubdate: Fri, 03 Aug 2007
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Thomas Korosec, Houston Chronicle
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


DALLAS -- Federal drug officials here suspect increased enforcement
along the U.S.-Mexico border has led traffickers to turn to
large-scale marijuana growing in North Texas and other places around
the nation where major pot fields have been rare.

Authorities have busted three large pot groves in the Dallas area over
the past month, including an 8-acre plot containing 10,600 plants,
many more than 6 feet tall.

The busted weed was so heavy and bushy, agents used a twin-rotor
Chinook helicopter to haul bundled loads of it out of the densely
vegetated bottomlands where it was being cultivated.

"What we are getting from arrests and informants is that people are
having a tough time getting dope across the border," said Jimmy Capra,
special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's
Dallas regional office.

So, he said, at least two organizations have turned to production in
thickly vegetated areas in the city.

"The size of the plots gives me concern these are ongoing
organizations," Capra said. "This is a commercial operation, not
someone who just said, 'Let's get into this.'"

Capra said trafficking through airports is way down with increased
enforcement there since 9-11.

Heightened security along the U.S.-Mexico border has led to increased
drug seizures there and pressured traffickers to find new strategies,
he said.

"They aren't going to say 'I quit.' You're talking about millions of
dollars," he noted.

The first field was found July 12 about 300 yards from the DEA
regional offices and FBI building in northwest Dallas. A DEA
helicopter pilot spotted it in a brushy river bottom.

Much of the field, containing about 2,000 plants, was ruined by
flooding, said Terri Wyatt, a DEA spokeswoman.

No arrests were made in any of the three cases. Media broadcasts about
the discovery of two of the fields tipped off growers who appeared to
have visited the fields only sporadically, Capra said.

On July 21, acting on a tip to police, DEA found the 8-acre
"mega-grove" near the Dallas-Grand Prairie border, a field Capra said
is the largest ever discovered in the Dallas area.

The growers fashioned an irrigation system by running plastic pipes
from a creek to hand-dug ditches. A gasoline powered pump, insulated
to muffle noise, was hooked to the line.

The age of the dead underbrush that had been cleared to make way for
the field indicates it was installed this spring, Capra said. It was
located a quarter-mile from the nearest road, on land owned by a
utility company.

Depending on the quality of the marijuana, which is to undergo lab
tests, officials said the field was worth between $5 million and $10

On Sunday, a Dallas police helicopter located a third field a few
miles to the east of the "mega-grove." It contained 1,600 plants.
Officials suspect it was planted by the same people, given
similarities in the layouts.

Capra said large pot fields traditionally have been found in Northern
California and Kentucky, but lately they have turned up in new locations.

In suburban Chicago last month, police turned up 30,000 plants being
grown in a county forest preserve. 
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