Sheriff calls conference on rise of pot cartels, violence
By Scott Wintermute
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference Thursday at the county’s main jail covering the issues surrounding this year’s high number of marijuana seizures in the area, and in particular, the issues that have arisen as a result of the cartel growers and traffickers working in and around our communities and wilderness.
Sheriff Bob Brooks discussed the La Brea Fire near Santa Barbara, which investigators allege was started by a propane stove in a marijuana cultivation camp.
Brooks expressed concern for recent changes in the way that the cartels operate. According to law enforcement agencies around the state, workers are now commonly being forced to work under much harsher circumstances.
Violence has become more prominent among grow operations to the extent of fire fights involving Lassen County Sheriff’s Department officers and marijuana growers, and workers being kidnapped and forced to work at gunpoint. “It’s a very sophisticated criminal enterprise that preys on defenseless workers and endangers every Californian.” said Brooks.
Former Ojai Police Chief and now Chief Deputy Gary Pentis addressed the influence of violence in Mexico and tightened border security on growers, saying that it had pushed them to open more operations in the United States, and California in particular to avoid the socio-political climate of Mexico and running the product across the border to be sold stateside. Pentis presented a slide show of recent growing sites between the Ojai and Lockwood valleys, where multiple crops have been discovered and destroyed.
With record quantities of marijuana being seized and the aggressive tactics of cartels, law enforcement officials have changed their tactics to better combat the illegal cultivation of marijuana. Pentis fielded questions from the press, which can be seen in a multimedia presentation.