Police with ALERT spent much of August targeting marijuana grow operations in northern Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan – as a result, thousands of plants were seized, and at least three people are facing charges.

As part of their effort, ALERT worked with the Department of National Defence to find rural marijuana grow-ops from the air.

Officers patrolled all of northern Alberta, up to the British Columbia border and into parts of Saskatchewan – in the end, 3,578 marijuana plants were seized from three grow operations in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The largest one was found in Valleyview – where officers executed a search warrant and found plants growing both indoors and outdoors.

In total, 2,984 plants were seized - three area residents who were present at the time of the search were arrested, and Bradley Besler, 27, Darren Besler, 27, and Lukas Hopkins, 24, all face charges of production and possession for the purpose of trafficking.

Police also found two other operations were found in the Leoville and Mervin areas of Saskatchewan – and in total 584 marijuana plants were seized between both operations.

“This program has been very successful for us in the past, it has now returned to ‘K’ Division,” Sgt. Ray Savage with the ALERT Green Team North said. “As a result of our partnerships with [the Department of National Defence], but also the support of the RCMP and the Edmonton Police Service and their aircraft, we have seized approximately 6,500 plants in the last two weeks alone.”

Last week, the team discovered another grow-op in the Thorhild area, charges are pending in that case.

ALERT said hazards with outdoor operations include booby traps to protect the crop – the introduction of chemicals and pesticides to undeveloped lands, interference with rural water sources and an increased risk of crime-related violence.

Information on how to spot a grow-op can be found online.