Drug haul worth $4.4m

DRUG squad detectives seized almost $4.4 million worth of cannabis from the Tweed/Byron area in November last year.

Tweed/Byron was one of seven areas across New South Wales hit by State Crime Command Drug Squad Cannabis Eradication Programs (CEPs) in the five months leading to March.

Police claim the state's illegal drug trade will now face major disruptions after a total of 9645 cannabis plants with a value of $18,174,000 were seized.

Drug Squad commander, Detective Nick Bingham, said between November 23 and 29 last year, 43 locations in the Tweed/Byron area were targeted, including Pottsville, Crabbes Creek, Burringbar, Stokers Siding, Mount Warning and Chillingham.

He said 2210 plants were located with an approximate value of $4,420,000.

“Three offenders, one female (aged 50) and two males (aged 64 and 39), were issued with Court Attendance Notices for cultivate prohibited drug,” Detective Bingham said.

“Local detectives are making further enquiries in relation to other suspects.” He said cannabis growers were now “feeling the pinch”.

“They've tried planting smaller crops and dispersing them over larger areas, in rugged, almost inaccessible terrain in an effort to avoid detection,” he said.

“But it's not working, we're still finding and destroying them.”

“Our strategies and tactics vary so much, often the first sign they have of our presence is the whirr of the police helicopter hovering above their crops and seeing them winched off a mountain destined for a furnace.”

The plants were located, seized and destroyed by Strike Force Aster, assisted by the police air wing, dog squad, radio electronics unit and officers from the various Local Area Commands.

“The program has proved very successful over the years with Local Area Commands, particularly in the north of the state, eager to take part in disrupting local cannabis cultivation and supply,” Detective Bingham said.

According to police the plants ranged from seedlings to four metres in height and a substantial quantity of cannabis head and leaf, ready for supply, was also found.

Many of the plots featured sophisticated irrigation and nutrient-supply systems.

Twenty people were either charged or issued with Field Court Attendance Notices in relation to the cultivation and/or possession of cannabis.

Since 2001, CEPs have resulted in the seizure and destruction of 100,536 plants, valued at more than $206m.

Anyone with information about the location of cannabis crops is urged to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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