CA: CHP To Help Protect Calaveras County During Cannabis Harvest

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The California Highway Patrol will provide three patrol units and, at times, a helicopter to help protect cannabis-growing regions of Calaveras County during this fall’s harvest, Sheriff Rick DiBasilio said Wedneday night.

DiBasilio made the announcement near the end of a community meeting in Shutter Tree Park in Mokelumne Hill after a man who was one of the more than 100 people present asked what security recommendations DiBasilio had for the approaching harvest season.

DiBasilio recommended that nongrowers stay away from the farms. He also said that he called the commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and had been promised three patrol units to assist local officers from September through November.

“You will see a CHP helicopter flying over now and again,” DiBasilio said.

The announcement comes just a few weeks after DiBasilio said during a community meeting in Mountain Ranch that he did not have enough staff to protect the sprawling cannabis farming region during the coming harvest.

Last year during harvest season, three alleged thieves were gunned down at a cannabis garden near Rail Road Flat. One of the farmers in that case, Jeremiah Lee Barrett, is in jail awaiting trial on charges of murdering the three thieves. His trial, originally scheduled for September, has now been pushed back to January.

DiBasilio’s announcement that his agency will get some help with harvest security was welcome news to Mark Bolger, a cannabis farmer and a member of the board of the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance.

“I think it is great news. Legal participants in this industry are glad to see more boots on the ground with law enforcement,” Bolger said.

Bolger and more than 700 other farmers have in recent months paid fees of $5,000 per farm to pay for the costs to Calaveras County of hiring inspectors and sheriff deputies required to enforce an urgency ordinance regulating the industry that the board of supervisors approved in May.

DiBasilio said after Wednesday night’s meeting ended that he also hopes to bolster harvest security by using some of the fee money to hire an officer for the Marijuana Enforcement Team.

“Let’s cross our fingers that there is no need to respond to any cannabis grows this year, and that no criminal element from the Valley comes up and tries to create problems on legal cannabis farms.”

Bolger said he’s hopeful that the increase security will help both farmers and other community members.

“Let’s cross our fingers that there is no need to respond to any cannabis grows this year and that no criminal element from the Valley comes up and tries to create problems on legal cannabis farms,” he said.

The cannabis industry discussion was only a small part of the community meeting in Mokelumne Hill. Event organizer Shirley Nester said she called the meeting because of a number of recent burglaries in the town, including one of her mother’s home.

Nester said one of the items taken was a wicker basket with a broken handle that belonged to her great-great-grandmother, a precious heirloom but something unlikely to have much monetary value to a thief.

“I don’t want to see this happen to anybody else in this town,” Nester said.

Several people at the meeting said they no longer bring their children to the park because one or more homeless people are often there drinking. Some said they encountered a homeless man washing his clothes in the park drinking fountain.

DiBasilio said that if the veterans’ district, which owns the park, were to post signs banning loitering there at night, then his deputies could cite or, in some cases, arrest people who are in the park after hours. But he said the homeless have the same right to be in the park as others.

Nester, too, advised her fellow community members not to be “vigilantes.”

“These are human beings we are talking about,” she said. “But we want our park back.”

Nester circulated a clip board for those present to sign up for a soon-to-form Mokelumne Hill neighborhood watch organization. She said she hopes to reduce the burglary problem by organizing pairs of neighborhood watch members to conduct night time patrols.

DiBasilio praised the neighborhood watch effort and said that Deputy Jim Moser, who is assigned to Mokelumne Hill, will assist in setting it up. “What we need is your eyes and ears,” DiBasilio said.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: CHP To Help Protect Calaveras County During Cannabis Harvest
Author: Dana Nichols
Contact: 209-754-3861
Photo Credit: Dana Nichols
Website: Calaveras Enterprise