(WBIR) The Knox County Sheriff's Office is cracking down on marijuana growers by taking to the air. Deputies are using a helicopter to look for plants.
The marijuana growing season is in its early stages in East TN.
The KCSO is looking to get an early start on finding growers and putting a stop to them. It can be challenging this early in the season.
"When plants are young it's hard to identify them from the air. So that's what we will be doing today. We will see how many plants, how old are they, and if we do find marijuana, we will pull it out of the ground," said KCSO captain Rick Trott.
Getting an overhead view helps crews find what they are looking for.
"We look for coloration, we look for cultivation. Where they have cut around it to cultivate it to enable it to grow. Clearings in places there shouldn't be clearings normally. Things that appear to be gardens removed from vegetation," said KCSO sergeant Greg Gass.
A Tuesday flyover brought them back to the base of House Mountain to see if there is marijuana being grown.
"When it's located on public land, very seldom do we find the person doing the grow. If it's on private property, a lot of times, we can have narcotics do an investigation. We will pull those plants out of the ground and lead them back to the grower. We can make an arrest at that point," said Trott.
When the helicopter returned, they were empty handed. The area they looked into had the telltale signs, yet ended up leading to nothing. But the season is still early.
"We wish it could have been a grower so we could have gotten it off the streets, but it wasn't. So we will just continue to look and in the growing season we will keep looking to find what we can find," said Gass.
Trott says the plants are usually fully grown by late August, making it easier to flyover and tell where they are planted. He said growers start the season in May, growing in Styrofoam cups before moving out to a public area.