Police in the sky get to the grass roots of drug trade
THE eagle eyes of the NSW Police Force are forcing cannabis growers to plant smaller crops, cultivate in steeper, heavily-forested terrain and use lantana and ground cover as camoflauge.
This week's latest police helicopter mission saw officers on the scout for drug crops around Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Glenreagh and Tyringham.
One crop, discovered in dense bushland near Bellingen, saw officers seize more than 150 plants with an estimated street value of $300,000.
Police say three missions flown over the Mid North Coast during the peak growing season has now netted more than 5000 plants carrying an estimated street value of $10 million.
State Crime Command Drug Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham said there's also evidence to suggest cannabis growers have not replanted crops over summer after the initial sweep of the region last year.
"This is a pleasing result, as we uncovered 400 plants on the Coffs Coast last season, and just 200 plants this week, which suggests some growers haven't replanted since their last crops were seized," Supt. Bingham said.
"What we are finding is that more growers are trying to conceal or camouflage their crops so they are not visible from the air.
"We're also finding that crops are getting smaller, as growers attempt to avoid detection by police.
"We are finding what we call 'scatter crops', where the growers plant smaller plantations of 20 to 150 plants and try to conceal the cannabis foliage.
Police say they were close to catching a couple of cannabis growers at Kalang this week.
It is thought the sound of the Pol-Air chopper may have spooked them.
"The plants were freshly harvested, uprooted and bundled together and the soil had been freshly disturbed when we seized the plants," Supt. Bingham.
Across NSW, Cannabis Eradication has this year seized and destroyed $25 million worth of cannabis.
Since it started in the mid-1980s police have found and burnt more than $250 million of the drug.