Sheriff’s Lt. Derrick Hesselein, task force commander of Alameda County Narcotics Task Force, had received tips from neighbors as well as community involvement for over a month before carrying out this week’s drug bust, culminating in him leading two consecutive days of raids on suspected illegal marijuana grow houses in East Oakland.
These were no ordinary grow houses and this was no ordinary bust, however. According to authorities all ten grow houses, including one across the street from an elementary school, are linked to the notorious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico.
At least 15 people were arrested, all adults and with more sure to follow. Children present were released to Children’s Protective Services to begin their own special journey into years of therapists and social workers.
Authorities managed to seize hundreds of pounds of marijuana with an estimated street value of nearly $4 million. They also confiscated both crude and sophisticated growing equipment and materials, along with two very real assault rifles and a revolver.
Plants in various stages of growth were additionally recovered, as well as pot products packaged and ready for sale in multiple rooms at the houses. In one house that I’m sure was a hit with their neighbors (at least it would have been with me), a 55 gallon-size garbage bag full of 1-pound bricks of weed was discovered and seized.
According to Hesselein, the Sinaloa cartel moves Mexican nationals into these grow houses and pays them a small amount of money to grow and tend the marijuana and protect the crops.
“Marijuana is not a victimless crime. It brings a lot of problems to our cities.” he reiterated, citing how one house raided was a home on Rudsdale Avenue across the street from Acorn Woodland Elementary School.
Telling is how Hesselein (and an increasing number of law agencies around the country), was able to successfully monitor and track the suspects using a sheriff’s department drone, which provided “instant on-site surveillance and intelligence and also was able to follow suspects trying to flee.”
My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities.