Skies scanned for pot Dowagiac Daily News | 8/30/2005 ST. JOSEPH - During the week of Aug. 22-26 the Berrien County Sheriff's Department Narcotics Unit and Road Patrol, working with a helicopter from the Michigan State Police Aviation Unit, participated in Operation HEMP in Berrien County. Operation HEMP (Help Eliminate Marijuana Planting) is a statewide multi-agency effort to locate and eliminate marijuana cultivation, according to Lt. Keith Hafer. The countywide search made by MSP pilot Lt. John Kenny and a Berrien County Sheriffs narcotics officer targets areas based on citizen tips, past seizures and likely cultivation sites. Officers in the helicopter then direct officers on the ground to the grow sites. In one case the marijuana grow site was on an island in the Galien River and officers had to borrow a rowboat and canoe from a local resident to get to the island to seize the marijuana plants. In another case 18 marijuana plants were spotted growing inside a chicken coop. In another case as the helicopter spotted marijuana growing near a house the resident ran into the adjacent woods and attempted to hide the plants (which were growing in pots). This year the Narcotics Unit seized 405 marijuana plants from 12 grow sites in the following areas: • Bainbridge Township (2) • Bertrand Township • Buchanan Township • Coloma Township • Galien Township • Hagar Township (2) • Niles Township • Sodus Township (2) • Weesaw Township Investigations of five of the marijuana growing operations resulted in warrants being requested for six persons. The investigation is continuing and a seventh person may also be charged. A 43-year-old Buchanan Township man will be charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana (finished product). A 43-year-old Hagar Township man will be charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana. A 75-year-old Hagar Township man will be charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana. A 53-year-old Bertrand Township man will be charged with manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana. A 35-year-old (both) Coloma Township man and woman will be charged with manufacturing marijuana. During these investigations officers also seized a Yamaha ATV used to tend a grow site and two firearms seized at grow sites under civil forfeiture.