POLICE seized 428 cannabis plants and 14 kilograms of cannabis head with a street value of more than $1.6 million when they raided three Glen Alpine houses last week.
They charged a man, 55, with three counts of commercial cultivation, using electricity without authority, and drug supply.
The discovery pushed the value of cannabis seized by Strike Force Zambesi from backyard hot-houses in Sydney's south-west over the $50 million mark.
Strike Force Zambesi began in April 2011 to target the hydroponic cultivation of cannabis throughout the region.
NSW Police Force’s Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the milestone reflects the organisation’s commitment to disrupting the cultivation, manufacture and supply of illicit drugs.
“The dedication of officers attached to Strike Force Zambesi over the past 15 months has seen the eradication of 16,165 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of $50,921,000,” Commissioner Scipione said.
“In addition, they have seized and destroyed 276kg of cannabis head, with an estimated street value of $2,339,000.
“They have worked tirelessly to shutdown 136 hydroponic set-ups, to disrupt the cannabis supply chain and stop the cash flow to the gangs behind them.
“So far, 51 people have been arrested and charged with 139 offences, including drug cultivation, drug possession, fraud and electricity theft.”
Police also removed and destroyed a massive amount of hydroponic, electrical and lighting equipment, as well as chemicals.
“These ongoing investigations not only minimise risk to the community by reducing drug supply, they also assist in reducing dangerous and criminal activities,” Commissioner Scipione said.
The ‘hydro houses’ were detected in various Local Area Commands in Sydney’s south-west – including Ashfield, Bankstown, Cabramatta, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Green Valley and Rosehill.
Deputy Commissioner Field Operations, Nick Kaldas, said the suburban locations of ‘hydro houses’ was a concern to police.
“Almost all the houses were modified for the sophisticated set-ups and fitted with extremely dangerous – and illegal – electrical bypasses,” Deputy Commissioner Kaldas said.
“A surge in power or illegal rewiring carried out to bypass the meter can quite easily cause a fire or electrocution, which poses a great risk to the community, especially their unsuspecting neighbours.
“It is disturbing to find these set-ups in quiet residential streets, next-door to daycares or schools, near playgrounds or around the corner from shopping centres.
“Strike Force Zambesi is leading the way in identifying and dismantling these hazardous premises, helping to reduce cannabis supply and break profit cycles amongst criminal groups,” DeCoP Kaldas said.
Investigations are continuing and South West Metropolitan Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Frank Mennilli, said cannabis cultivators in the area should expect to get caught.
“Strike Force Zambesi investigators are pleased with this milestone, but today is another day and they are currently conducting a raid in Bankstown,” Assistant Commissioner Mennilli said.
“In just over a year, we have destroyed more than $53million of cannabis and cannabis products – and that $53million had the potential to strengthen criminal gangs and increase their illegal activities across Sydney.
“We will continue to uncover and destroy cannabis crops across the region, target drug supply and associated crimes.
“My officers will ensure that anyone involved in criminal activity in Sydney’s south-west will feel the full extent of the law,” Assistant Commissioner Mennilli said.