In 2020, narcotics detectives identified 150 illegal outdoor marijuana grow sites in Antelope Valley. In 2021, investigators conducted reconnaissance flights and identified more than 500 illegal cannabis grows.
Villanueva said violent crime has been linked directly to the grow sites. In July 2020, two murder victims were discovered adjacent to an illegal marijuana grow in Lancaster, while in March, a murder victim was found buried in the desert near Lake Los Angeles and the suspects wanted in connection with the murder operated an illegal marijuana grow in Lake Los Angeles.
“Threats by armed individuals against citizens living in close proximity to illegal marijuana grows have occurred on a regular basis and were increasing in frequency,” the department said in a news release.
Police said the grows also threaten wildlife and the environment.
“Most Californians would be shocked and disappointed at the amount of water these unlicensed, illegal grows are using, especially as California suffers from a drought,” said Curt Fallin, DEA associate special agent in charge. “By our calculation, the illegal grows in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties require an astounding 5.4 million gallons of water a day, every day.”
“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to all the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the high desert, ‘your days here are over and we’re coming for you,’” said Villanueva.