Area law enforcement agencies have taken to the sky once again to find and
eradicate marijuana crops.

In Ohio, the Meigs County Sheriff's Office last week found from 2,100-2,200
plants and made two arrests, said Deputy Rick Smith. That number of plants
is large considering it still is early in the growing season, Smith said.
Deputies found plants ranging from two feet tall to 12-14 feet tall, Smith
said. The larger plants had started to bud, he said. The approximate street
value for a mature plant is $1,500.

Smith said there is a great deal of marijuana growth in Meigs County
because of its rural location. Deputies said they expect to find many
plants this year.

Deputies divided the county into two parts, the eastern portion and the
western portion. Crews covered both areas in their search, Smith said. They
searched Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday using helicopters and ground crews.

The West Virginia State Police has confiscated five crops this season, said
1st Sgt. B.D. Adkins, district commander. The local district covers Wood,
Wirt, Pleasants and Ritchie counties.

Troopers recently found a crop of 25 plants in the Wadesville area of Wood
County, Adkins said.

The largest find this year was in Ritchie County, which has the local
record for the largest crop found in recent years, officials said. Last
year, law enforcement officers found a crop of 5,000 plants in Ritchie County.

This year, troopers found 71 plants in the Auburn area of Ritchie County,
Adkins said. Other crops in Ritchie County yielded 67 plants in one spot
and 51 plants in another on Leather Bark Road.

The smallest crop was a single plant troopers found growing in the yard of
a St. Marys residence, Adkins said.

In their searches, troopers found plants that were seven feet tall. Mature
plants can grow to 14 feet, police said.

No marijuana arrests have been made this year in West Virginia, but some
are pending, Adkins said.

Wood County Sheriff Stephen Greiner said the presence of marijuana growers
in Wood County is not as apparent as it was a few years ago.

The sheriff's department uses its helicopter in aerial searches, but
deputies have yet to find a substantial crop this year, Greiner said.

"We got one plant the other day," Greiner said. "We've flown three or four
times so far. We used to get a lot, but it's slacked off in the last couple
of years."

Methamphetamine is the prime target for eradication in Wood County, Greiner
said. "With meth labs, you hear stories every day," he said.

Mid-Ohio Valley residents can help their law enforcement agencies in the
marijuana eradication process by being vigilant and reporting suspicious
activity in rural areas, Adkins said. Residents who own land and spend time
in the woods and fields in the area can learn to identify the signs
marijuana growers leave behind.

"They may see tracks or paths where vehicles or people have gone into the
woods," Adkins said. "There may be areas that have been cleared to allow
the sunlight in."

Residents may see chicken wire around plant beds, he said. Buckets or pots
used to start the plants also may be in the area of a crop.

Growers often plant their crops on property that does not belong to them,
Adkins said. However, they also have been known to plant marijuana on their
own property in secluded areas, he said.

Marijuana growers sometimes grow the plants in their gardens among the
other crops, he said.

Some growers even grow their crops indoors, but those can be found using
infrared vision, Adkins said. Buildings in which the plants are grown are
significantly hotter because the growers use heat lamps and other lighting,
he said.

Many growers install traps around their crops to protect them. Residents
should be cautious if they stumble upon a marijuana patch, officials said.

Marijuana eradication is not done with helicopters alone, Adkins said.
Often the helicopter cannot land in areas where the crops grow. Ground
crews must hike to the area over which the helicopter hovers.

"Sometimes the terrain isn't in your favor," Adkins said. "The helicopter
hovers and ground crews have to find the spot. A lot of times it's
difficult to get to."

Officers yank the plants from their beds, haul them to headquarters in
trucks, collect samples for evidence and burn the rest with diesel fuel or
other accelerants, Adkins said.

Pubdate: Sat, 03 Aug 2002
Source: Parkersburg News, The (WV)
Copyright: 2002, The Parkersburg News