VIDALIA, La. - Few have failed to notice the ominous buzzing of law
enforcement helicopters in the area this week.

But unless you're growing a secret crop of high-grade marijuana, the
choppers are nothing to worry about.

"This is part of our ongoing battle against narcotics," Sheriff Randy
Maxwell said. "We're looking for locally grown fields of marijuana."

The airborne patrols, a joint operation between the Concordia Parish
Sheriff's Office, the Concordia Narcotics Task Force and the Louisiana
National Guard, have been checking remote areas of Concordia, Catahoula,
Tensas and Avoyelles parishes for clandestine horticulture.

Maxwell explained that helicopters are often the only way to weed out
marijuana growers, who tend to plant their crops in "the most remote
places" accessible only by air or water.

And while a pot plant might blend in with other foliage at ground level,
Maxwell said a helicopter gives law enforcement officers a different

"You can really spot a marijuana plant sticking out," Maxwell said.

The patrols have turned up a few groves of suspected marijuana, Maxwell
said, but the cases are under investigation, and no arrests have been made.

"I can go in and destroy the plants right now," Maxwell said, "but I won't
get the bodies. And that's what I want."

The helicopter patrols, now in effect for the past several years,
concentrate on finding marijuana, and, Maxwell said, they have been
successful in doing so.

"We've gotten plants 15 to 20 feet tall," he said.

But helicopter pilots have spotted everything from meth labs to stolen cars.

Marijuana growers, Maxwell said, rarely stick solely to marijuana, but
rather branch out into "a wad of criminal activity."


Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jun 2002
Source: Natchez Democrat, The (MS)
Copyright: 2002 Natchez Newspapers Inc.
Author: Aaron Zachmeier