Antelope Valley Marijuana Eradication Operation
On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the results of the Marijuana Eradication Operation which began on the early hours of Tuesday, June 8, 2021, and lasted 10 days. The collaborative operation took place in the Antelope Valley and several local, state and federal agencies were involved including: over 400 personnel from multiple Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department units, deputies from the Community Partnerships Bureau, Operation Safe Street and Special Victims Bureau detectives, Lancaster and Palmdale Station deputies, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, California National Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and members from the Kern County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County Sheriff’s Departments.
In 2020, Narcotics Bureau Detectives identified 150 illegal outdoor marijuana grows in the Antelope Valley. In 2021, investigators conducted reconnaissance flights and they identified over 500 illegal cannabis grows.
Violent crime has been linked directly to the grow sites. In July 2020, two murder victims were discovered adjacent to an illegal marijuana grow in the unincorporated area of Lancaster. In March 2021, a murder victim was found buried in the desert near Lake Los Angeles and the suspects wanted in connection with the murder operated an illegal marijuana grow in Lake Los Angeles. Threats by armed individuals against citizens living in close proximity to illegal marijuana grows have occurred on a regular basis and were increasing in frequency.
The threat to the environment and wildlife cannot begin to be calculated as growers consistently use banned pesticides and fertilizers for their illegal crops. Two dead bears were discovered and their death is attributed to pesticide use.
Water theft occurs at an alarming rate and it has threatened the water supply for residents in the eastern portion of the antelope valley. Theft occurs from fire hydrants and unpermitted water wells that were being drilled on the grow sites.
“Most Californians would be shocked and disappointed at the amount of water these unlicensed, illegal grows are using, especially as California suffers from a drought,” said DEA Associate Special Agent in Charge Curt Fallin. “By our calculation, the illegal grows in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties require an astounding 5.4 million gallons of water a day, every day.”
Thanks to public calls for service and multiple complaints from residents, the largest operation in the history of the Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department was developed to put an end to the hundreds of illegal marijuana cultivations in the Antelope Valley.
As result of this operation, a total of 131 arrests were made; 65 vehicles, including two water trucks were seized; approximately $28,000 dollars in U.S currency were seized; a total of 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana were seized; 30 locations were demolished, 33 firearms were sized; 180 animals were rescued; and there were19 water theft arrests. The total estimated street value of the plants destroyed is $1.193 billion dollars.
“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to all the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the high desert, ‘your days here are over and we’re coming for you,’” said Sheriff Villanueva.
Anyone who sees activity that appears to be suspicious or criminal in nature should contact their local sheriff’s station, or remain anonymous and call “Crime Stoppers” at (800) 222-TIPS.