Cooper, EGPD Testimony at Calif. Assembly Public Safety Committee Reveals Severity of Elk Grove's Pothouse Problem

April 18, 2018 |  

In testimony yesterday by a captain with the Elk Grove Police Department and a California State Assemblymember before the California State Assembly Public Safety committee, the severity of illegal residential marijuana growing in Elk Grove and Sacramento was presented. 

The testimony came from Captain Timothy Allbright, captain of the EGPD's investigative unit and Assemblymember Jim Cooper, who represents the state's 9th Assembly District which includes all of Elk Grove. The two were testifying on behalf of Cooper's Assembly Bill 3208, which sought to grant Elk Grove civil forfeiture powers not enjoyed by other municipalities as a tool to address the proliferation of illegal residential marijuana growing operations.

In his testimony, Allbright rattled off several statistics to justify the bill. Among other things, Allbright said in 2017 police raided 40 pot houses, received 175 calls for service related to houses, and are on pace this year to "far exceed that number." (Allbright's complete testimony can be heard below).

"For the last 12 years we have dismantled hundreds of grow homes, only to see them reappear on new residential streets within our community," Allbright said. "This cyclical presence of illegal marijuana grow homes within the city of Elk Grove affects the quality of life and compromises the public safety of our citizens." 

In his testimony, Cooper painted a more dire picture of the situation in Sacramento and Elk Grove. Cooper said that both cities estimate there are about 1,000 residential operations in their communities, and, he added, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency estimated in 2016 over 300,000  illegally indoor grown marijuana plants were confiscated nationally, of which about 75-percent of came from Sacramento and Elk Grove. 

While Cooper advocated the bill as a way of Sacramento and Elk Grove battling the problem, the bill was narrowly crafted exclusively for Elk Grove with no police or elected officials from the City of Sacramento testifying. After hearing all testimony, committee members took no action which effectively killed it for this legislative session.

Even though it was killed, the testimony does bring up serious policy question for the Elk Grove City Council. Let's take a look at Allbright's comments.

Noting the city formed its police department in 2006, Allbright said the fight against pot houses has been an ongoing challenge. He also stated that once they bust a house, the reappear on "new residential streets within our community."

Is that to say if a pot house busted in one of the older neighborhoods, say in 2007, would then appear on a new, as in newly built street? Or is new in the context meant to say different street? 

Regardless, the point is once these houses are busted a new one sprouts up in the city. If we are to believe the captain's testimony, and we have no reason not to, this problem will persist, and even get worse as the city continues its housing expansion. 

Given the city's rapid growth in the years leading up to the Great Recession, and then the subsequent bust which saw many of those new homes abandoned and then sold at auction to Wall Street hedge funds with no interest in well-being of the community other than making a quick buck, should we be surprised pot-houses took root?

The current pot house proliferation is occurring as the housing market has recovered and the city is pushing for more rooftops not only in the already approved Southeast Policy area, but the 1,200-acres that private developers are seeking to annex into the city for additional housing units. When the next real estate slow down happens we can expect this cycle to repeat. 

If the Elk Grove City Council is serious when they say they want to build strong neighborhoods, which has unfortunately become nothing more than a punch line, they will not pursue civil forfeiture legislation as window dressing for doing something about this problem. 

On a side note, we cannot help but wonder who conjured this silly, and unrealistic solution. Those possibilities are endless, but we will leave that discussion for a later date. 

Instead, the five city council members could slow down their expansion ambitions and work with law enforcement professionals to formulate realistic plans that will reverse, or at least slow down this proliferation before adding gas to the fire. Left unaddressed, as more houses are indiscriminately built, we can expect even more of these illegal operations to sprout up in new subdivisions.

Of course, given the city council's reliance on the donations from housing developers and associated interests like building trade unions, expecting any actions from them that might put a crimp in the plans of their political patrons is about as likely as Elk Grove becoming a major employment center. 

Given that the City Council will not act on this lest they be flogged by their benefactors, there is a silver lining to this situation - perhaps the city's befuddled economic development department can leverage this notoriety and make Elk Grove The Grow Mecca. Now that would surely put The Grove on the map!         

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

In that same speech, Cooper said that organized crime from the East Coast was behind these grow houses, using cash from China. So my question is why is our P.D. advertising busts of all these small-fry immigrant worker-bees who work these houses. Why no busts of the big honchos who are funding these operations.

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