For the last five months, the Gwinnett County Police Department’s Narcotics Unit has been keeping tabs on suspected drug traffickers believed to be involved in a marijuana grow house operation.

On March 14, that investigation paid off: a raid of five grow houses netted more than $35 million in drugs, 22 guns and 16 arrests.

“The detectives assigned to the Narcotics Unit truly committed themselves to this criminal investigation,” said Maj. Cleo Atwater, commander of the Gwinnett County Police Department’s Special Investigations Section. “Because of their hard work, a significant amount of drugs will be kept out of our neighborhoods and schools.”

According to Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera, the investigation began in October when detectives “uncovered two large drug trafficking organizations that imbedded themselves into the community.”

Since then, detectives identified the five grow houses, each of which averaged 340 to 1,500 plants in each home, and linked the alleged traffickers “to a larger international organization serving not only Gwinnett County and the metro Atlanta area, but also the southeast United States,” Pihera said.

“To those passing by, no one would have suspected that these five marijuana grow houses were harboring criminal activity,” she said. “The drug trafficking organizations utilized sophisticated equipment to manufacture high-grade marijuana. The largest grow house was an 8,500 square-foot home in Norcross.”

On March 14, after months of work, detectives executed 15 search warrants in Gwinnett, Henry, and Clayton counties, which netted the 16 arrests.

As of Thursday, 3,174 marijuana plants had been recovered, along with a “significant amount” of additional evidence, including THC candy, THC oil, cocaine, illegal mushrooms, $676,517 in cash and six vehicles.

Gwinnett County Police Department Chief Butch Ayers said the detectives’ work was “a shining example of the dedication our officers have to serving the community.”

Gwinnett police worked with several local and federal agencies as part of the raid, including the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, Gwinnett Metro Drug Task Force, FBI and the DEA in the case. Pihera said the bust is “not likely related” to a July bust of 17 marijuana grow houses.

The grow houses were located at:

• 748 Bartow Drive, Dacula

• 6015 Williams Road, Norcross

• 456 Hastings Way, Jonesboro

• 2202 South Ola Road, Locust Grove

• 1536 Pine Circle, Lawrenceville

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Crime Reporter

Isabel is a crime and health reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post. She graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a B.A. in international studies. She is originally from the Boston area.

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