Burglaries linked to drugs

By Anna Ferrick

Sixteen people have been arrested in a drug operation which involved 35 officers at its height and netted 170 cannabis plants, 3.5kg of dried cannabis and $3000.

Police searched properties along the East Coast on Wednesday, arresting eight people from Hawke's Bay and eight from Gisborne.

The operation resulted in 19 properties being searched, including one Hastings address where 158 cannabis plants were seized. As well as plants, dried cannabis and money, police also seized more than 50 cannabis "tinnies" ready for sale. A stolen horse float was also located at one of the properties.

Head of the Eastern Organised Crime Unit, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Foster, said police were specifically targeting known drug dealers and growers. Further offenders were still to be located. There was a strong link between burglary and drugs.

"Burglaries are invariably committed to fund drug debts or to buy drugs - the two go hand in hand. There is a definite trail of burglary, selling the stolen items to a receiver and using the proceeds of that to buy drugs. Ultimately the public are the victims."

He said the range of charges could include possession for supply, cultivating cannabis and theft of electricity.

"These guys divert electricity for growing. They're stealing power, effectively."

Electricity theft was not new and growers did it to avoid paying large power bills from the use of lights and heating needed to grow cannabis.

Cultivating cannabis can carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

The operation lasted about three weeks and involved 35 police officers at his height

Mr Foster said the anonymous Crimestoppers phone line had been a huge help, with more and more people providing information about drug-related offending.

The operation comes on the heels of Tuesday's imprisonment of three people busted by the Eastern Organised Crime Unit last year, in relation to methamphetamine offences.

Mr Foster headed up two operations last year, resulting in 15 people being charged with drug offences. The first three offenders to go through the courts were imprisoned on Tuesday.

In a statement released at the time, Mr Foster said the organised crime unit would continue to target drug offending.

"We will continue to focus on drug dealing within Hawke's Bay and Gisborne because of the harm it is causing to our community.

"There will be no let-up in our fight against drug supply."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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