Operation Trident results in Seizure of Thousands of Marijuana Plants
“Today’s difficult economic environment requires close collaboration among federal, state, and local law enforcement. Operation Trident demonstrates the value of that collaboration, and of coordinated enforcement and demand reduction efforts,” said ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske. “Operation Trident supports the National Drug Control Strategy’s goal of reducing drug abuse and its consequences. Reclaiming illegal marijuana grow sites, prosecuting offenders, and also providing comprehensive prevention programs to youth and parents will help prevent drug abuse before it starts.”
To date, Operation Trident has resulted in the seizure of 432,271 marijuana plants, 499 pounds of processed marijuana, 74 ounces of cocaine, 49 ounces of methamphetamine, $1,450 U.S. Currency, 33 weapons, 2 vehicles, and the arrest of 97 individuals. Subjects were booked on various federal and state violations, including cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, unlawful presence in the U.S., unlawful re-entry after deportation, alien in possession of a firearm, and conspiracy. Additionally, 15.5 tons of trash, 29 miles of irrigation line and 4,580 pounds of fertilizer were removed from grow sites. Approximately 270 acres of land have been destroyed by illegal marijuana cultivation to date in Operation Trident.
In January 2010, law enforcement from local, state, and federal agencies initiated investigations into drug trafficking organizations involved in large-scale marijuana operations. During the course of these investigations, officers identified 126 illegal marijuana grow locations in Fresno, Madera, and Tulare counties. A large number of grow sites have been identified in Northern and Central California’s foothill and mountain areas controlled by drug trafficking organizations. As a result, law enforcement has dedicated resources to the investigation, eradication, and reclamation to control this illegal activity.
During Operation Trident thousands of pounds of toxic fertilizers, trash, and miles of makeshift irrigation systems were removed from grow locations. These foreign materials contaminate California’s watersheds and destroy wildlife. Eradication and reclamation teams, along with volunteer crews, strive to remove irrigation lines, contaminates, and trash from the land, streams, and rivers. Taking away this material will help restore the land to its natural state and will eliminate the infrastructure, which is imperative to deter drug trafficking organizations from re-establishing their operations. The removal of non-native material is the first stage of the restoration process and can cost up to $11,000 per acre.
“Operation Trident is focused on armed drug smugglers who bring with them the dangers and violence associated with drug trafficking,” said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. “We must work with our state and federal partners because these organized crime organizations don’t just grow marijuana on our public lands. They continue their criminal conduct during the off season with other illegal drug and violent activities in our local communities.”
“This mission is a collective fight against organized crime,” said Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, who has spent more than a decade working with multi-agencies dedicated to drug interdiction in Madera County. He says Operation Trident highlights this effort. “There is no way one county can tackle this mountainous task alone. That is why I am grateful, as is Madera County, for the collaborative efforts exercised by a multitude of agencies, working together with the common goal -- to eradicate organized crime from our Valley and our State.”
“We are extremely fortunate to be able to call upon these resources that share this common goal. With this three pronged approach we are able to gather intelligence, eradicate illegal marijuana grow sites and reclaim our public lands. This collaboration has made it possible to identify drug trafficking organizations that have brought illegal drugs and violence to our neighborhoods. We will continue to work together in the enforcement of these goals as well as provide the education and prevention programs that help protect our communities,” said Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said, “Drug traffickers who operate large marijuana grows on public lands in the Sierra foothills despoil the environment and pose a safety threat to hikers, campers, and other persons who use our parks and national forests. Operation Trident is the latest example of excellent cooperation among federal, state, and local, agencies in combating this menace.”
Operation Trident has dedicated resources to prevention and community coalition building. The California National Guard plays a vital role as a support element alongside law enforcement agencies in the ongoing fight against drugs. A primary focus of the CNG's Joint Task Force Domestic Support-Counterdrug is the prevention of illicit drug use. The program complements ONDCP's prevention strategy by providing youth-based educational activities designed to reduce "first time use" of illicit drug use by providing education to parents, teachers, and community leaders.