Seneca County law enforcement representatives removed 100 marijuana plants during the county's annual marijuana eradication effort Thursday.
The eradication, funded by a grant from the Drug Enforcement Agency, was an eight-hour event that featured a helicopter, flown by Butler County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Armocida, that search the county for marijuana plants in fields.
Armocida and a spotter from Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification communicated with county law enforcement personnel on the ground, who removed the plants and loaded them into a trailer.
Detective Sgt. Don Joseph of Seneca County Sheriff's Office said the plants were taken from about eight locations.
"Five of the eight were at residences," he said. "It's never really been like that before."
Joseph said five criminal cases would be submitted to the county prosecutor as a result of the operation.
"I will have three cases in (Seneca County) and Detective Brandon Bell will have two cases in the City of Fostoria," he said. "We've had one or two before (at homes as a result of the eradication), but this is kind of a new dynamic. More and more people are growing at their residence versus out in the field."
Joseph said he could not explain the larger number of people being caught growing the drug at their residence.
Joseph said plants seized that were not attributed to any owner would be destroyed at an undisclosed location. He said the plants involved in pending criminal cases would be dried and sent to a crime lab and results of analysis would be submitted to the prosecutor's office.
Joseph estimated that $100,000 of marijuana was taken off Seneca County streets.
"We've seen it more and more with other drugs, but marijuana is a gateway drug," he said. "I think if we can get that off the street, make it less available, interrupt that supply and demand; it gives people a chance to recover and gives them a chance."
Joseph said he was thankful for the DEA grant that funds helicopter fuel and usage.
"Without the grant, this wouldn't be possible," he said. "I do believe it benefits especially rural counties such as Seneca County. It's beneficial that we can get out, fly around and take potential illegal drugs off before they hit the streets and poison our children."
Seneca County Sheriff's Office special deputy Scott Blough joined other law enforcement representatives during the eradication effort.
He said he has been a special deputy since 2003.
Blough, a criminal justice professor at Tiffin University, is running for Marion County Sheriff in November.
Joseph said several of Blough's students assisted the operation Thursday.
He said representatives from METRICH Enforcement Unit, interns from Heidelberg University and Tiffin University, Attica Police Department, Bettsville Police Department, Green Springs Police Department, Republic Police Department, Tiffin Police Department, Fostoria Police Department, Seneca County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification helped during the eradication.
Originally published in the Advertiser Tribune on August 26, 2016.