By Tamas Mondovics
Information was obtained from an out-of-state law enforcement agency regarding a possible indoor marijuana grow house in a Valrico residence.
Detectives responded and, upon conducting a knock-and-talk visit at 709 Sand Ridge Dr. in Valrico, found Ivana Rivera, 24 at home.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Public Information Officer Debbie Carter, detectives requested Rivera’s identification, which she re-entered the house to retrieve.
“While inside the residence, Rivera gathered multiple marijuana plants, placed them in a garbage bag and threw the bag over the fence of her backyard,” Carter said, adding that detectives recovered the plants and authored a search warrant for the residence.
Detectives said that once inside the residence, it was discovered that a portion of the garage had been converted into a grow house for the sole purpose of cultivating marijuana.
Detectives located 449.8 grams of marijuana along with several items of drug paraphernalia as well as synthetic marijuana and one Alprazolam pill.
Rivera was arrested for: cultivation of marijuana; possession of marijuana; tampering with evidence and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In a continued effort to identify, as well as to avoid such illegal activities taking root in the neighborhood, local law enforcement officials have been urging residents to be vigilant.
Growing drugs indoor does not mean out sight, out of mind. HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon said that drug nurseries come in many shapes and forms and can be inside homes of all sizes, putting neighbors in danger by bringing to the community both drug users and drug dealers and all the criminal elements that comes with it.
“We have found entire houses turned into illegal drug nurseries,” McKinnon said in an interview.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that Florida ranked on top for marijuana grow houses and that growers are getting smarter about concealing their operations.
According to detectives, identifying marks of an indoor drug grow house may include the notable increase of electricity as high-wattage light bulbs are needed to help speed up plant cycles and run air conditioning constantly to cool the hot lights.
Of course, running the air year-round might not alarm anyone in Florida, however, growers are rewiring homes to steal electricity from utility lines to avoid suspiciously high electric bills, and in the process creating dangerous conditions.
Other signs of a grow house may include blocked windows, electric power lines that run illegally into the home, or fertilizer being carried into the house without any sign of a garden or flowerbed.
One more factor that seems to stand out is growers owning vicious dogs to protect their crops, which creates a hazardous environment for area residents.
With neighbors or property owners often claiming to have had no idea of drugs being grown in a nearby home, the Sheriff’s office is encouraging residents to utilize the Crime Stoppers Tip hotline and call law enforcement when they notice suspicious activities.
Anyone with any information or to reports suspicious activity is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 247-8200, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), report anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com or text “CSTB plus your tip” to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637).