In Our View: Gang Green Triumph

Local drug raid of Oct. 13 required months of planning and rapid deployment

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What might at first appear to the casual observer as a round-’em-up, lock-’em-up drug bust on Oct. 13 was in fact the culmination of a two-year coordinated effort of astonishing complexity.

Kudos to the 300 officers from 16 law enforcement agencies and the many others who participated in Operation Gang Green. Combined, the officers form the Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force, and here’s what they accomplished:

6,800 marijuana plants were seized. (In case you’re wondering, most of the mega-stash will be incinerated in industrial-size facilities used by the task force. Some of the haul will be kept as evidence.)

49 people were arrested. Bail for most was ordered at $50,000 and arraignment was set for Oct. 28. As a Columbian story reported, most suspects appeared on suspicion of manufacturing marijuana or possession with intent to deliver. Most of the suspects are from Seattle, Honolulu or California.

Raids were made on 56 local sites in just one day. Many of the houses held 100 to 300 marijuana plants.

Officers described the illegal operation as an organized crime ring, a cartel that operated far beyond Clark County. An affidavit said marijuana shipments from Clark County included 54 pounds to Portland, 47 pounds to Wyoming and 38 pounds to Nebraska. The illegal operation is believed to have netted $10 million in one year.

No injuries were reported as a result of the raids.

No children were referred to Child Protective Services as a result of the raids.

That’s an impressive box score of illegal drugs taken off the market and suspected felons taken out of action. But equally impressive was the game plan, the first chapters of which were written in 2009, with preparations intensifying in recent months. Here’s what that entailed:

Arresting officers were brought into the loop about three weeks earlier. Not until 6 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, did they learn the specifics of their assignments.

To avoid tipping off suspects, the raids had to be conducted quickly, virtually simultaneously, in a highly coordinated fashion.

A special mobile booking station was set up at Vancouver Fire Department Station 4 in Orchards, so that the jail booking staff would not be overwhelmed.

Planners monitored the developments real-time.

Meals had to be arranged for the officers who worked from 6 a.m. through the evening. Neighbors on Watch volunteers delivered sack lunches from the jail food service to the officers.

Special morning and afternoon dockets were arranged to accommodate the parade of suspects. Superior Court Judges Barbara Johnson and Dan Stahnke were delegated to handle the work.

Multiple other agencies, such as Child Protective Services and Clark Public Utilities, were included in the planning, all the while maintaining confidentiality.

Three interpreters were brought in.

And, although the greater work of Operation Gang Green is accomplished, an abundance of extended legal work remains, such as deciding whether cases will be tried federally or locally. Overtime and staffing costs for the big day are expected to be picked up by the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the planning and staging of the largest drug bust in Clark County history. We wish efforts like Operation Gang Green weren’t needed, but that’s living in a dream world. For now, take pride in the professionalism and planning skills that were shown, and recognize the upgrade in local quality of life that resulted.