As this yearâ€™s outdoor marijuana-growing season comes to a close, the San Luis Sheriffâ€™s Department reports that theyâ€™ve destroyed more than 10,800 plants over the summer and fall.
That number is similar to the number of plants deputies found last year.
â€œIt sounds impressive, but itâ€™s been a drought season,â€? Sgt. Sean Donahue said. â€œDrought has a way of [affecting] even the criminals.â€?
Narcotics officersâ€™ biggest bust was a 5,000-plant garden they destroyed on Aug. 15 near Los Osos. Deputies also found gardens in various places in North County.
Members from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or CAMP as itâ€™s commonly known, also helped San Luis Obispo County law enforcement eradicate a little more than 2,200 plants.
CAMP, which is funded by various state and federal grants, is made up of about 40 members from the U.S. Forest Service, National Guard, and various sheriff departments that assist county narcotics units.
Compared to 2003â€™s growing season, this year has been relatively violence-free.
Last year, suspects shot at raiding narcotic officers in San Luis Obispo, Butte, and Shasta counties. San Luis deputies didnâ€™t return fire but in the ensuing gun battles in Butte and Shasta, four suspects were killed.
In Ventura County, someone shot at a hunter whoâ€™d inadvertently strayed too close to a garden. Santa Barbara County Sheriffâ€™s deputies found booby traps around two gardens: a trip wire in front of nail-covered boards and a bear trap.
Donahue, with the San Luis Obispo Sheriffâ€™s Department, said that 2004 has been calmer, but his department has also changed tactics. After last yearâ€™s shooting, â€œI think a light came on and we [realized] weâ€™re going to have to adjust just a touch,â€? he said.
As an example, he brought up a garden with 2,300 plants along Highway 46 that deputies raided in September.
â€œThey had guns, but we planned so perfectly that we got them napping and we were on them before they could do anything,â€? Donahue said.