Nearly 8,500 marijuana plants have been seized by the High Desert Drug Enforcement Team during 2010 and 2011, according to a fact sheet recently released by the task force.

During the two-year period, the task force seized 8,467 marijuana plants, along with 15.7 pounds of marijuana, or 7,136.66 grams.

The marijuana plants seized have an estimated street value of $16.9 million, while the marijuana has an estimated value of $31,400 to $70,650 on the streets.

“I think it has been very successful,” Washington County Sheriff and current chairman of the HDDET Administration Board Matt Thomas said. “Anytime you can take drugs off the street it is successful.”

The High Desert Drug Enforcement Team is an investigation unit comprised of deputies and officers from the Washington County, Payette County and Malheur County sheriff’s offices and the Weiser, Payette, Fruitland, Ontario and Nyssa police departments.

Each detective assigned to the team is deputized and has peace officer authority within each county. Their primary focus is drug investigations as well as assisting on major crime investigations that occur within the tri-county area.

“This was very much average,” Malheur County Undersheriff Brad Williams said of the drugs seized. “It is pretty low on the plants. In previous years we have had up to 15,000 plants taken. There was not much this (2011) year.”

Marijuana was not the only drug seized. HDDET seized 3.09 pounds, or 1,401.85 grams of methamphetamine, 8.2 grams of cocaine and 3.7 grams of heroin.

Along with the illegal drugs seized by the HDDET, it has also made 58 arrests and seized seven vehicles, 58 firearms and $40,521 in cash during the two-year period in the tri-county area.

The team has also served 44 search warrants, leading to 89 arrests and indictments, and has taken down two methamphetamine labs. There has been a total of 122 cases during the two-year period.

“The whole purpose behind the task force is to prevent drug flow in the area and out of the area,” Williams said. “We have some really good partners.”

Williams said the HDDET works closely with the Idaho State Police, Baker City’s Narcotics Unit and the City-County Narcotics Unit, out of Caldwell.

Thomas said each of the agencies involved with HDDET has a dedicated officer on the task force.

“My plan is to make the county (Washington County) a drug-free county and make it difficult to do drug business in this county,” Thomas said. “Every county feels the same way. I think the numbers speak for themselves. I am proud of what the officers and deputies have done.”

Williams said, since the task force has been in place, enforcing drug crimes has been easier for law enforcement.

“Drugs are flowing both directions,” Williams said. “’People are coming into Oregon to buy drugs. Those from Oregon are going into Idaho to buy drugs. (It) just depends what side of the border you are on. Everybody works together, makes it so much easier. Drugs don’t stop at the border.”

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