Battling Marijuana Crime

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Efforts by police are reducing the number of marijuana-related crimes in Southern Oregon, but officers say those numbers can change quickly.

For the past several years, Southern Oregon has been a hotbed for marijuana and federal enforcement. Several marijuana raids at large scale farms were meant to slow down the sale of pot across state lines.

Police know that Southern Oregon is marijuana country. At this time of year, the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Team gets 10 calls a day as marijuana is harvested.

“It’s the season when MADGE starts getting a lot of complaints from neighbors. We’re seeing a lot of complaints about the odor, the traffic,” said Medford Police Lt. Brett Johnson.

But a chronic problem is going down, slightly.

“Looks like we’re down about 20% in Marijuana crimes and citations,” said Medford Police Lt. Brett Johnson.

From 2011 to 2012, Medford Police say there were 693 marijuana-related charges, from possession to sale. From 2012 to 2013, that number dropped to 532 charges. The drop coincided with DEA raids on several large marijuana farms in Jackson County, and busts at other grow operations.

“We’re seeing a lot less of what we call the super grows, the 100 plus super grows that were trending for some time,” said Lt. Johnson. “We do see an ebb and flow of the numbers at times. We’re still seeing plenty of marijuana, there’s no shortage in the Rogue Valley, that’s for sure.”

What Jackson County does see is Mexican cartel operations on forest lands. Where criminals grow vast numbers of plants, and will protect them violently. Jackson County has teamed with other agencies across Southern Oregon to eradicate the grow sites and the number of plants they have encountered has also gone down in recent years. They say that helps stop illegal marijuana from being shipped out of the state.

“Most of them are from out of the area, they move up here, they have their grows, if they’re able to harvest it, they take it out of the area,” said Lt. Matt Thomson with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

They say those cartel grows can be dangerous and if anyone notices anything, it needs to be reported right away.

“We rely on a lot of hunters that are out there in the woods, that if they see anything suspicious, that they give us a call,” said Lt. Thomson.

The number of people arrested for marijuana-related crimes has also gone down in the past year by about 130, but police say they tend to see this ebb and flow of numbers as laws and ordinances change.