$24 million of marijuana seized in raids across northern NSW
MORE than 12,000 marijuana plants, with an estimated potential street value in excess of $24 million, has been seized by NSW Police as part of this year's Cannabis Eradication Program.
The CEP is an annual operation, led by detectives from the State Crime Command's Drug and Firearms Squad, which targets the outdoor cultivation of marijuana from Tweed Heads to Coffs Harbour.
Detectives were assisted by police from New England, Tweed/Byron, Richmond, and Coffs/Clarence Police Districts, as well as PolAir, the Dog Unit, Rural Crime Investigators, and other specialist units.
This includes 4153 plants seized in New England Police District between November 19 to 23 2018, 1692 plants seized in Tweed/Byron Police District between February 4 to 8, 2019, 3503 plants seized in Richmond Police District between February 18 to 22, 2019, and 2748 plants seized in Coffs/Clarence Police District between February 25 and March 1, 2019.
All the plants were certified by an agronomist and have since been destroyed.
Officers also seized about 30kg of cannabis head and leaf, 1kg of cannabis resin, and various calibres of ammunition.
In total, 25 people were served court attendance notices for various drug and firearms/ammunition offences.
NSW Police drug and firearms squad commander, Detective Superintendent Martin Fileman, said this season's program once again saw police working in extreme conditions and thick, dense bushland.
"With the optimal cannabis growing season being late spring and summer, the CEP can be physically challenging for our teams, particularly when removing large crops of mature plants from remote areas," Det Supt Fileman said.
"The assistance of our specialist units and their equipment is essential to the success of the program, as is the expert skills of all investigators and officers on the ground.
"Many of the large crop sites were located on Crown Land or in remote areas of private land - often unbeknownst to the owner. Cultivating any type of plant on land without permission or authority is theft.
"Our farmers are already doing it tough - they don't need crooks destroying parts of their property and attempting to make a profit out of crops on stolen land."
Det Supt Fileman added that the program's ultimate goal is to cut into the profits of organised criminal networks by disrupting their illicit business.
"The CEP is two-fold - we first remove the crops before they're harvested and prepared for the streets, and then use the intelligence we've gathered to further target the networks behind the cultivation and supply," Det Supt Fileman said.
"We know from experience, that criminal syndicates will often re-invest profits made from the cultivation and supply of cannabis into other illicit enterprises across the state.
"Our priority will always be targeting activities that impact on the safety of the community and our squad continue to be deployed wherever there are drug supply networks putting people's lives at risk."
The CEP began in the 1980s and targets outdoor marijuana crops in the optimal growing season which runs throughout the warmer months of the year.
Marijuana plants with an estimated potential street value of more than $380 million have been seized during the program's lifetime.