Drugs blitz nets 53 arrests

Police have seized and destroyed more than 1500 cannabis plants, and arrested 53 people on drug and firearms charges following a series of raids on properties across the Western Bay of Plenty.
Inspector Mike Clement said 45 search warrants were executed on Thursday and yesterday at homes and rural properties across the Western Bay, targeting drug and dishonesty offending.
Mr Clement said 50 officers were in volved in the raids. Properties were searched in Tauranga, Ohauiti, Belle vue, Matapihi, Te Puke, Papamoa and Matakana Island.
More than 1500 cannabis plants were seized and destroyed, and culprits were facing cultivation charges, he said.
On Thurs day, 10 officers swooped on Matakana Is land where 700 plants of vary ing sizes were plucked from the ground at two properties _ 400 plants at one and 300 at the other _ and then des troyed.
Mr Clement said while no arrests were made over the Matakana Island crops, inquiries were continuing.
So far, 53 people faced charges including possession of cannabis for supply, cultivating cannabis, possession of an offensive weapon, unlawful pos session of a firearm and explosives, and possession of methamphetamine and drug utensils.
Most of those arrested were bailed to appear in court next week.
Among those charged was a Matapi hi teenager allegedly found guarding his four-metre-high crop of 229 cannabis plants with a loaded air rifle when police arrived at his address on Thurs day.
The teen was charged with pos session of cannabis, cultivation of can nabis and possessing an offensive wea pon.
Police also arrested a 23-year-old Tauranga woman after raiding her apartment.
Police had received information the woman was dealing in cannabis and methamphetamine from the flat.
The Bay of Plenty Times accom panied police as they stormed the wo man's apartment.
Police said the woman had come to their attention after they received re ports of large numbers of people and vehicles visiting her apartment several times a day, and allegations of intimi datory behaviour by some of her visi tors.
Seven police officers spent more than an hour searching the woman's flat, dur ing which they allegedly found half a gram of hashish, empty bags often used for methamphetamine dealing, a bag with a small amount of methampheta mine residue inside, and several pipes used for smoking methamphetamine.
The woman will appear in court on Thursday on drug possession and drug- utensil charges.
Also expected in court next week is a Bellevue mother of two teenage boys.
She was charged with possessing cannabis, possessing methamphetamine, and possessing drug utensils.
Her two children were being dealt with by police youth aid.
Mr Clement said the operation was a ``pretty impressive' success.
He said it was not possible to put a total dollar value on the plants seized and destroyed because they were in dif ferent stages of the growth cycle and the skill level of growers varied considerably.
``But over 1500 plants destroyed is an awful lot of drugs now off the streets.
``Police are very pleased to divert so much cannabis from our community as it causes an awful lot of harm.'
Mr Clement said he was keen to ensure youth were not exposed to the drug.
Getting to cannabis before it was harvested limited that possibility.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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