This is the second in a 10 part series on the Elk Grove Police Department Citizen’s Academy. If you missed week #1, there will be a link at the end of the story.
For week 2 we heard from detectives that work in the narcotics and street crimes units of the EGPD. 3 hours went by fast. Lots of interesting information.
First up were the narcotics detectives. They talked about pot houses, cocaine, heroin and meth. They dispelled some myths that they see in comments on social media. On a side note, it’s pretty clear that law enforcement follows social media and EGPD in particular follows Elk Grove Laguna Forums. Some of the comments they mentioned were on EGLF.
A lot of people thought that with the passage of Prop 64 that legalized marijuana that the black market for pot would disappear. The detectives said that is not the case. Too much money is involved. They said the grow houses make too much money for the Chinese gangs. The detectives said that a lot of the pot grown here is taken by car back east. Marijuana here will sell for $1000-3000 a pound, but back east can get as much as $6000 a pound.
In the past year there have over 200 pot houses busted in Elk Grove. Myth #1 they wanted to dispel. The people working in the grow houses are not human trafficked from China. They are usually family members. They get arrested, most get off on probation with a fine they pay from the illegal money they get. They said the grow homes are not rentals. They are owned by people getting hard money loans from China that police can’t track. Someone asked, can’t the homes be seized by the government. They said state and local officials don’t do that because some cases take years, and the houses have to be maintained in the meantime. The federal government can do it and the recent raid that netted over 100 homes a few months ago, the Feds are seizing the homes.
The detectives said that once the homes are busted some are sold to unsuspecting buyers. The owner pays to fix them up, put a fresh coat of paint and if the Realtor doesn’t know then a buyer could buy it and not know what they are getting. In some cases they said the homes are sold to family members and then they wait a year or so and then start up again. Some houses have been busted more than once. The family member “buys” the home, but never fixes it up. They said that neighbors reporting the pot houses are the #1 reason they catch them. They see suspicious behavior and call police.
Myth #2, the grow houses are growing natural pot that is harmless. They said the grow homes have a large amount of chemicals that are used on the pot. They showed us photos of buckets and gallon jugs of chemicals that are used. They said in the bay area one grow house was using Fentanyl to spray on the pot.
Myth #3, the houses aren’t a danger to the community. The wiring in the homes is changed out and not done to code. Meters are bypassed. The homes use an incredible amount of electricity, some of which is stolen by bypassing the meter. There is a fire hazard. One home that busted recently, had melted wiring in the junction box in the ground outside the home. Homes are also the target of robbers. They said the home invasions and crimes against Asians in South Sac were related to grow houses. The media never reported that. The robbers knew that the growers didn’t trust police, they had large sums of money, and were targeted by criminals.
Some other issues related to marijuana. Illegal marijuana growing is also destroying our National Parks. Marijuana is the #1 drug that people are being checked into rehab for according to the detectives. They said contrary to what advocates say, it is addictive. Homes have mold and are contaminated from chemicals.
They also touched on Meth, Cocaine and Heroin. They said that meth labs are very rare because of the danger to the cooks and the crackdown on Sudafed has made it harder to obtain. Most are choosing to be dealers instead of manufacturers. Cocaine is less popular around here. Meth and heroin are more common. The black tar heroin is seen the most. It comes from Mexico. They also talked about Fentanyl and how that has increased and is responsible for many deaths because it is so powerful. They said that EGPD now carries Narcan which they can administer in case of an overdose or in some cases if an officer comes in contact with the drugs. Someone asked about the K9’s and if they can be injured by inhaling the drugs and they said that K9 officers have a similar drug to give to the K9’s too.
The topic was very interesting for me as someone that reports on marijuana topics and pot house. It’s a topic that always brings out the people who ask why are they busting pot homes, it’s just a plant, there is no danger to anyone. It’s pretty clear that the pot houses are a danger to the community.
Up next was the street crimes unit. They talked about gangs in the area. They said prior to Elk Grove forming it’s own police department in 2006, that there was a serious gang issue. EGPD has made it a priority and has drastically reduced the gang activity. There are gang members that live here, some may be high ranking, but they keep a lower profile in the city. They said their detectives were part of the task force that brought down Shrimp Boy and his associates, including State Senator Leland Lee from San Francisco.
Thanks to STEP, the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention Act they are able to bring gangs to justice and the act adds an enhancement to gang related crimes that adds years to any sentence. Anyone convicted of a general felony with a gang enhancement will get an additional 4 years. A serious felony will get an additional 5 years. More serious felonies can lead to lead to life without the possibility of parole. Gang members make up 1% of the population, but 20% of the crime.
They talked about Asian, Black, Hispanic, and biker/white gangs, where they are in Sacramento, some tell tale signs of gangs, types of clothing. Nortenos use the number 14, or XIV, X4. They wear red. They also like Sacramento Kings gear because the SK stands for Sureno Killer. Surenos wear blue, and use the number 13, XIII, X3. Very few Surenos in the area, most are in So Cal. Nortenos wear KSWISS because it means Kill a Scrap (Sureno) Within 6 Seconds.
They said that gangs are using social media now to talk to trash to each other. They film videos by going to rival territories and then post them in Youtube and social media. That can lead to escalating tensions. They said in our area the gang violence is not interracial. Meaning black gangs and Hispanic gangs don’t go after each other. They go after gangs in their own race.
Week 1 – Introduction