Traffic stop leads officers to pot-growing operation

San Francisco police busted up a marijuana-growing operation on Moraga Street earlier this month, after a routine traffic stop revealed that the driver’s home was a center for illegal drug activity.

On July 18, officers from Taraval Station pulled over Emil Camozzi, 29, of San Francisco for cell-phone, seat-belt and stop-sign violations. While questioning Camozzi, the officers noticed a number of materials in the back seat commonly used for growing marijuana, according to police reports.

The officers secured a search warrant for Camozzi’s address on the 700 block of Moraga Street and subsequently found a large stash of marijuana and two firearms.

Despite the known presence of similar drug-producing outfits in The City — ranging from organized warehouse stations in the SoMa area to residential growing operations in the outlying neighborhoods — San Francisco police officers seldom target marijuana growers, according to Lieutenant Rick Parry of the police department’s narcotics division.

A resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors in 2006 ordered marijuana infractions to be low on the police department’s list of priorities, and local law officials are prohibited from working with the federal government on any drug cases.

Parry said officers broke up about 30 pot-growing operations in 2006, the most recent year data was collected. Very few of those arrests, however, came as a result of targeted raids, he said.

“We don’t spend a lot of time investigating these operations,” he said. “The arrests usually come after a response to complaints from the community or calls to service for other problems.”

Lighting for the grow-operations is usually poorly set up, so police discover many illegal stashes after a residence has burnt down because of faulty wiring, Parry said. The homes are often the subject of robberies and can be the center of separate domestic disputes that draw the attention of neighbors, according to Parry.

A lack of garbage service, shuttered windows, late-night activity and low humming noises could be clues that marijuana is being grown next door, according to Parry.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Low priority

In 2006, supervisors made marijuana enforcement low on the priority list for police.

San Francisco Municipal Administrative Code, Section 12X.2: “Make investigation, citations, arrests and property seizures from adults for marijuana offenses the City and County of San Francisco’s lowest law enforcement priority.”

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