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Five Things You Might Not Know About WestNET

The West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team — WestNET for short — often emerges briefly from complex drug investigations with a story of arrests and prosecutions. But most of its work is done in the depths of the drug trade, following up tips, working with informants and going up the supply chain to bigger criminal enterprises.

But what do we know about our local drug task force? Here are five things about this cadre of detectives you might not know. Many of these questions are ones I often get from readers. The answers come directly from detectives on the task force.

How are they funded? Yes, they do get federal money. But local agencies also pay to send their personnel to work there. The Bremerton Police Department, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and others make up the seven detectives in the unit. Its sergeant is Carlos Rodriguez, who comes from the Washington State Patrol.

Is any medical marijuana user safe from them? WestNET’s busts of people who have medical marijuana cards from a doctor have made the news recently and frequently. But are there those with cards whom they ignore? Rodriguez says yes. They look to the state’s rule of a maximum of 15 plants and 24 ounces of pot for medical users. He said they leave those within that rule alone, unless there’s evidence of trafficking or selling. In cases where there are more than 15 plants or 24 ounces, he said they take the plants or product over limit, leave the rest and then forward a report to the appropriate prosecutor’s office for review.

How many of WestNET’s cases involve those who have medical marijuana recommendations? Rodriguez said that in 2009, 20 of their 57 marijuana grow investigations claimed to use pot for medical purposes. This year, five of 13 have said the same.

Does WestNET investigate anything besides marijuana? Yes. They have mobility to move up the ladder of sellers of drugs of any kind. Because they are a small unit, a big case can often skew their stats. For instance, one such investigation took the amount of club drugs they confiscated in 2008 to 2009 from 281 doses to 27,500.

What’s a breakdown of the amount of drugs the task force took in 2009? According to Rodriguez:

Marijuana: about 3,500 plants in 57 cases;

Cocaine: 37.6 grams in five cases;

Club drugs and doses: 27,500 in five cases;

OxyContin and other prescription drugs: 2,350 grams in 11 cases;

Meth: Almost 2,000 grams in 22 cases;

Heroin: About 310 grams in five cases.