Cannabis worth nearly $10 million seized during targeted operation across south-west Sydney

NSW Police have seized cannabis plants valued at nearly $10 million and charged four people following a targeted operation into the cultivation and supply of cannabis across Sydney’s south-west.

Earlier this year, officers from Wetherill Park Region Enforcement Squad (RES), together with officers from the nine South West Metropolitan Police Area Commands, commenced inquiries into indoor cannabis cultivation and supply across the region.

Following extensive investigations, officers executed 19 search warrants at homes across Sydney’s south-west as part of Operation Voice, a coordinated police response to mid-level organised criminal syndicates involved in the cultivation and supply of cannabis.

Operation Voice forms part of a wider South West Metropolitan Region policing strategy aimed specifically at disrupting mid-level organised crime, known as Operation Trident.

During the searches – conducted yesterday (Tuesday 14 July 2020) and today (Wednesday 15 July 2020) – officers seized 2993 cannabis plants, with an estimated potential street value of $9.85 million.

The largest seizure uncovered during the two-day operation was at a home at Highclere Avenue, Punchbowl, where investigators located a large hydroponic setup and 632 cannabis plants.

Significant events include;

  • A 57-year-old man was arrested at Cabramatta West after officers allegedly located a hydroponic set-up within four bedrooms of a home about 8am on Tuesday (14 July 2020). During a search, investigators seized nearly 1.3kg of cannabis head, 66 cannabis plants and equipment. The man was taken to Fairfield Police Station and charged with possess prohibited drug, use/consume/waste electricity without authority and enhanced indoor cultivation (commercial quantity – expose child). Police will allege in court that the man was involved in the cultivation of cannabis and that two children – aged six and 15 – were exposed to the hydroponic setup. He was refused bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court today (Wednesday 15 July 2020).
  • About 7.40am on Tuesday (14 July 2020), officers executed a crime scene warrant at a home at Mt Pritchard and located a large hydroponic set-up concealed underneath the premises. Investigators seized 91 cannabis plants, an unsecured firearm and equipment. A 38-year-old man was arrested and taken to Fairfield Police Station where he was charged with not keep firearm safely (not prohibited firearm), enhanced indoor cultivation (commercial quantity – expose child), and use/consume/waste electricity without authority. Police will allege in court that the man was involved in the cultivation of cannabis and that five children were exposed to the hydroponic setup. The man was refused bail to appear at Liverpool Local Court today (Wednesday 15 July 2020).
  • Just before 1pm on Tuesday (14 July 2020), officers executed a search warrant at a home at Burwood and arrested a 48-year-old man, who allegedly attempted to flee from police. The man suffered a cut to his face during the arrest and was taken to Concord Hospital for treatment, before being taken to Burwood Police Station. During a search of the home, investigators seized 112 cannabis plants and equipment. The man was charged with cultivate cannabis (indictable quantity). He was refused bail to appear at Burwood Local Court today (Wednesday 15 July 2020).
  • A 54-year-old man was arrested at a home at Villawood about 7.30am today (Wednesday 15 July 2020), after officers located a hydroponic set up, 45 cannabis plants, 56g cannabis head and $5560 cash. The man was taken to Fairfield Police Station and charged with enhanced indoor cultivation plant for commercial purpose, possess prohibited drug, use/consume/waste electricity without authority and recklessly deal with proceeds of crime. He was refused bail to appear at Fairfield Local Court today (Wednesday 15 July 2020).

The NSW Police Force South West Metropolitan Region covers a total area of 3645 square kilometres and is comprised of nine Police Area Commands including; Auburn, Bankstown, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown City, Campsie, Cumberland, Fairfield City and Liverpool City.

Investigators were also assisted throughout the two-day operation by the Public Order and Riot Squad (PORS), South West and North West Metropolitan Operations Support Group (OSG) and Operation ODIN.

South West Metropolitan Region Operations Manager, Detective Superintendent Craig Middleton, said the combined efforts of police from across the region have put a significant dent in these criminal activities that put the public at risk.

“Hydroponic houses have the potential to put surrounding homes and residents in danger and can be anywhere within the community,” Det Supt Middleton said.

“As we move into the middle of winter the potential for fires within the home increases, as more people use heating and cooking equipment.

“Similarly, hydro houses rely on increased electricity use, which is often stolen from the grid through rigging substandard and illegal electrical bypass systems, which have in some cases can lead to fire or electrocution.

“During the operation, police also identified that a number of children had been living at some of the locations and exposed to the hydroponic setups.

“This kind of irresponsible behaviour is simply unacceptable, and police will continue to target those that put the community – including children – in harm’s way.

“While enhanced indoor cannabis cultivation sites can be difficult to identify in suburbia – we would ask that the public remain vigilant to what is happening near their homes and report any suspicious activity to police,” Det Supt Middleton said.

Signs of a hydro house can include;

  • Increased security measures (roller shutters, fences, vicious dogs in the yard),
  • Increased use of electricity,
  • Increased use of water,
  • Illegal connection to electrical supply,
  • Condensation on windows,
  • Continual running of generators and lights,
  • Disposal of large amounts of garbage,
  • Large quantities of chemicals and fertilisers around the premises,
  • Locks or other methods in place to prevent access to the electricity meter box,
  • Discarded plastic containers and strong odours (fertilisers, liquid and bagged growing cultures).

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