Janesville53.3°

Illegal agriculture: Just a blip or tip of the iceberg?

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
January 20, 2010
— Three marijuana-growing operations uncovered in one month. What’s going on?

Janesville police are wondering the same thing.


“It’s certainly raising some eyebrows and is the subject of some conversations here,” said the police department’s deputy chief, Dan Davis.


A third grow-house raid came Monday night at 309 E. Racine St. Police, acting on a tip, said they found 55 live plants in various stages of development. That’s a total of 297 plants in three different raids in less than two weeks.


Maybe the three busts are the tip of an iceberg.


On the other hand, they might be an aberration, a blip on the screen. Only time will tell, Davis said.


If you consider that police will find only a certain percentage of lawbreakers, then a sudden surge in arrests might signal there are many more out there doing the same thing.


Or, you could argue that police are getting better at their job, Davis said.


Nobody knows.


It’s not like this is new to Janesville. Police in 2004 found what they called a “very sophisticated” marijuana-growing operation in the basement of a house on Hawthorne Avenue.


Officers found 157 marijuana plants in that bust.


One possible explanation for the January trifecta: Police got lucky.


“The nature of our work is such that it seems like you go through stretches where nothing turns out; you go through stretches where it seems like everything turns out just like you want it to, and the Street Crimes Unit is in one of those stretches where they’re on one of those highs right now, no pun intended,” Davis said.


Police have found no links among the three grow operations and no links to gangs or other organized crime, Davis said.


“We rely to a certain extent on the information that the (suspects) give us, if they choose to talk to us,” Davis said. “So are they telling us the whole story, or is what they are telling us, is it truthful? But we’re not finding any common threads that link any of these three grows.”


Another possibility: The tough economy is driving more people to try their hand at growing pot.


Davis wasn’t certain, but he has no information that any of the suspects in the three busts was gainfully employed.


Are outsiders fueling the trend? The suspect in Monday’s bust came here from Rockford, Ill., last May, and one of the suspects in the first bust probably was not originally a local person, Davis said, but the suspect in the second case is a longtime resident.


Davis chuckled when asked if there may be many more grow operations in the city.


“I wish I knew,” he said. “… It would seem to me that it’s kind of starting to look like it, but this may be the last one, and we might go quite some time before having another one.”


JANESVILLE POT GROWING

Court documents and information from Janesville police indicate the following about three recent busts of pot-growing operations in the city:


Jan. 5

Address: 2507 Black Bridge Road, a single-level duplex, rented.


How discovered: Tips. Further investigation included subpoenaed Alliant Energy records and traces of marijuana found in trash put at the curb.


What was found: 147 plants.


Estimated street value: $75,000. Police say they calculate the average amount of marijuana a plant would produce if it had reached maturity multiplied by an average street value.


Where plants were grown: Basement.


Arrested: Rashann M. Henderson, 30, and Andrea R. Meyer, 25, of that address, both on charges of manufacturing or delivering marijuana, maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia. Henderson also arrested on charges of felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance.


Jan. 6

Address: 421 N. Oakhill Ave., a rented, single-family ranch-style house.


How discovered: Landlord serving an eviction notice found the plants.


What was found: 95 living and 45 dead plants.


Where grown: Basement. The attic was used as a drying area.


Estimated street value: $48,000.


Arrested: Carlos R. Galvan Jr., 46, of that address on charges of manufacturing or delivering marijuana, maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police had arrested Galvan Jan. 3 on a charge of marijuana possession when a single marijuana plant was found in his car.


Jan. 18

Address: 309 E. Racine St.


How discovered: Tip. As in the Jan. 5, case, the tip was not from neighbors.


What was found: 55 “high-quality live plants in various stages of development.” Also a seeding system that was being prepared to start an additional 20 plants and about 33 grams of loose, dried marijuana ready for packaging.


Where plants were grown: Basement.


Estimated street value: $27,500.


Arrested: Paige E. “Sam” Chambers, 43, of that address on charges of manufacturing marijuana, maintaining a drug trafficking place and possession of drug paraphernalia. Police said Chambers has an extensive criminal record in Illinois and that Illinois authorities said he should be considered armed and dangerous. No weapon was found.



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