Collier County sheriff's vice and narcotics investigators have shut down five suspected marijuana grow houses since the beginning of the year, sending the people who run them to jail and a message to the community that drug dealers aren't welcome in Collier.
Since Jan. 3 _ the first grow house bust of 2008 _ sheriff's investigators have seized 431 plants weighing more than 680 pounds and having a combined street value of $1.1 million.
The most recent case was Tuesday, when deputies uncovered 81 marijuana plants weighing more than 25 pounds valued at nearly $250,000 at 4859 22ndSt. N.E., Golden Gate Estates. The homeowner, Antonio M. Carralero, 35, was arrested on marijuana trafficking charges.
The four other grow house busts were also in Golden Gate Estates, where the vast majority of grow house arrests are made in Collier.
"It's an indication to us that this type of activity isn't waning in the Estates," Lt. Nelson Shadrick of the CCSO's Vice and Narcotics Bureau said of the arrests.
There were a total of 31 grow house arrests in Collier in 2007, nearly all in the Estates.
Shadrick credited patrols by investigators and public awareness about grow houses for the recent arrests.
Shadrick said the economy has had an effect on the number of grow houses that are turning up in Collier County.
"We've had some people make the claim that I lost my job, so I turned to this,'' Shadrick said.
Shadrick said there are plenty of indicators that a marijuana grow house maybe operating in your neighborhood that are easy to spot, including:
* Multiple air-conditioning units in operation.
* Little traffic at a residence, except for odd hours, weekends and nights.
* Gates and Beware of Dog signs.
* Windows and blinds that never open.
* Frequent loading and unloading of equipment, especially at night
Anyone who sees suspicious activity and suspects a marijuana grow house operation should call the Collier County Sheriff's Office at (239) 775-TIPS.