"There is definitely a trend here, and we are seeing an increase throughout East County," said Contra Costa County Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee. "This is a potential danger to residents living next door to these types of operations, and people should certainly pay attention to what is going on in their neighborhoods and report any suspicious activity to the sheriff's department."
In the early morning hours of Jan. 3, the Sheriff's Office Narcotics Unit raided homes on Bixler Road, Discovery Bay Boulevard, Cherry Hills Road and Beach Court. Two suspects, Stephen Hernandez, 29, and John Parker, 40, were arrested and booked into County Jail in Martinez.
A total of 160 marijuana plants were seized from the homes, along with lighting and irrigation systems used to grow and harvest the weed. Electricity was also stolen by bypassing PG&E meters, said Lee.
"Those two crimes (cultivation and stolen electricity) are felonies," said Lee. "So these guys could be looking at some serious jail times."
Discovery Bay resident and community awareness advocate Todd Pastorini said that any reduction in crime was a good thing, and was pleased with the sheriff department's diligence.
"Anything is an improvement," said Pastorini in a recent e-mail. "This is at least reducing $250,000 in local trafficking. That has to be a significant reduction of the 'bad element' coming and going from Discovery Bay to pick up their drugs. Not to mention that it might keep it out of the hands of our children."
In cases such as these, where homes are clearly being used to manufacture and deal drugs, Lee said that community awareness is key. "The one comment we heard over and over from neighbors was, 'I always knew something was up with this place,' and things like that," said Lee. If anyone knows about a neighborhood, it's the people who live there. And if they see anything, they should call the sheriff's department."
The narcotics department also raided homes in Oakley, Brentwood and Antioch two weeks ago, seizing more than 6,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $10 million.
Those with information regarding suspicious activity in their area are encouraged to call the police tip line at (866) 846-3592.