With growing season, drug busts blossom

Public Safety department: $1.8 million in drug money seized in March, three times higher than month prior

 by Matt Culbertson
 published on Friday, April 11, 2008


The onset of Central America's growing season may have contributed to increased seizures of marijuana and drug money throughout Arizona last month, according to the Department of Public Safety.

In March, Arizona DPS seized almost 23,000 pounds of marijuana and more than $1.8 million in drug money throughout the state, according to a DPS report released last week.

In comparison, the department seized $516,287 in drug money during February less than a third of the amount seized in March, said DPS spokesman Bart Graves.

The department seized about 16,000 pounds of marijuana in January and February combined, Graves added.

"The growing season really ramps up about this time of year [and] tapers off in the fall," he said.

He said the marijuana- growing season in Mexico and Central America may have increased the drug's trafficking through Arizona.

But it can be difficult to draw trends from drug seizures, he said. For instance, DPS took in about $8 million in July 2007, Graves said.

Scottsdale Police reported seizing about $58,000 in funds with direct ties to illicit drug activity in March, Sgt. Mark Clark said in an e-mail.

And, since January, the department has seized approximately $130,000 in drug money, he added.

However, Clark said he could not comment on any noticeable trends in drug seizures.

Tempe Police seized approximately $100,000 in drug-related cash in March, said spokesman Brandon Banks, who also said he could not comment on possible trends in drug seizures.

While the money was involved in drug trafficking, most of the cash was not seized at the same time as illegal drugs, Banks said.

ASU Police Cmdr. Jim Hardina said in an e-mail that the University department usually doesn't seize drug money that would be considered significant.

"We arrest students for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, but rarely for drug smuggling," he said.

Graves said DPS traffic stops contributed to the high numbers of seized drug money.

The largest such seizure of the month occurred on March 6, when a DPS officer found more than $550,000 concealed in a commercial truck south of Interstate 10 in Phoenix, according to the news release.

Graves said no estimates were available on the amount of drugs coming into Arizona.

"It's a vast amount, we know that," he said. "It ebbs and flows depending on the growing season, when they're trying to get their product through the country."

Reach the reporter at: Contact Info | Privacy Policy