KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON - State police, using a helicopter, located and seized 219 adult marijuana plants in Pownal, Bennington, Woodford, and Shaftsbury Friday.
Lt. Reginald Trayah, commander of the State Police Barracks in Shaftsbury, said Trooper Wayne Godfrey, who is trained to spot marijuana plants from the air, flew around between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. directing members of a Marijuana Eradication Team on the ground. Trayah said two troopers were assigned to the team and were assisted by regular road patrols.
No arrests were made, he said.
Last week, state police did the same thing in the northern part of the county, around Manchester, Arlington and Dorset, where they seized 160 plants. He said the street value of all the marijuana together is estimated at $947,000.
He said the team focused its efforts based on where marijuana has been found growing in the past, and tips from the public. On some occasions, efforts to monitor the plants to see who is tending them are made, but Trayah said growers often use other people’s property and don’t visit their plots for months at a time. He said manpower limitations don’t allow police to watch a plot for more than a few days. Finding them, even with air support, is time-consuming as well, as they are well hidden on the ground. Some have been found in cornfields, he said, grown without the farmer’s knowledge.
"We try to hit them where it hurts," he said, adding that these types of searches are done annually, but police would rather not say when the next one may be, or if there will be another this year. No special device was used to spot the plants, as they are distinctive from the air to the trained eye. Marijuana needs an abundance of water and sun to grow, and without an artificial light source, does poorly under cover.