178 drug arrests made in Bay area

By Anita Moran

Rotorua homes were part of a nationwide campaign targeting cannabis growers and dealers.

A national six-month drug campaign led to more than 130,000 cannabis plants and more than 280kg of dried cannabis destroyed by police.

A total of 2324 homes were searched during the campaign, with 183 search warrants executed in the Bay of Plenty.

Statistics released by police show 178 arrests were made in the Bay of Plenty as part of the operation, three clan labs were discovered and 36 firearms were confiscated.

In addition, 28.6g of cannabis was found - 27,754 plants and seedlings.

Figures relating specifically to Rotorua were not available but were included in the Bay of Plenty statistics.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay praised Bay of Plenty police for their work during the operation.

"By targeting this illegal activity at the source, millions of dollars' worth of harm has been prevented by getting these drugs and the offenders off our streets," Mr McClay said.

"I am delighted to see the hard work of our police pay off. These latest arrests are another positive step forward in creating safer communities for our children and families."

He said the operation was part of the plan to build a safer New Zealand.

"I particularly congratulate them in confiscating 36 firearms in the Bay of Plenty which would have most likely been used to commit crimes. The public is safer for this excellent police work.'

"We've embarked on a comprehensive programme of reform to protect communities, prevent crime and put victims first."

Police National Headquarters manager covert operations Detective Inspector Paul Berry said cannabis growers and dealers were likely to "be feeling the pinch" after six months of co-ordinated action against them.

"More importantly, we have prevented millions of dollars worth of harm by getting these drugs and the offenders off the streets."

Mr Berry said police found 280kg of plant material and destroyed 130,385 plants and seedlings. He said the potential street value of the plants and seedlings at maturity was up to $130 million.

Other drug seizures included 1.4kg of methamphetamine, 321 LSD tabs and 4150 ecstasy pills.

There were 327 firearms seized from drug houses and $675,533 cash plus other assets, all under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act.

"Police recognise that cannabis continues to be a major issue for New Zealanders and causes widespread harm to the community through health issues caused by addiction and related crime such as thefts and burglary," Mr Berry said.

"A recent UN report highlighted New Zealand's consumption of cannabis, putting us among the highest users in the world ... We remain committed to disrupting the business end of illicit drugs - that means targeting the growers and the dealers."

"We know that organised criminal groups are heavily involved in the cannabis trade and targeting the supply chain directly impacts on their ability to operate successfully," Mr Berry said.

He said the operation was an example of police working across all districts in a co-ordinated approach.

"One of the most concerning aspects of the lives of drug offenders is they can put their children in harm's way every day," Mr Berry said. "Police found 248 children present in drug dealing houses... These children can be exposed to drugs, harmful chemicals and are often around firearms and other weapons."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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