DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Picture the perfect North Texas neighborhood. They are children running along the streets. The houses have beautiful lawns with manicured shrubbery. Big trees line the sidewalks. College fans show their true colors by flying flags showing their favorite teams.
But, if you take a much closer look at some middle-to-upper class North Texas neighborhoods, you may see a slight difference in some homes. The windows are sealed off with shutters that never open or dark-tinted windows. There is a mysterious silence that lurks around the home. What’s behind the closed doors of these house? No one would ever suspect- except maybe Ed Fox, who heads up the Volunteers on Patrol Program for the Prestonwood West Neighborhood.
“It not only took this one down, but about three others,” says Fox as he looks a former house that sold drugs. In the last two-years, Fox has alerted law enforcement to suspicious activity that’s taken down several houses for growing, manufacturing or selling drugs.
“It’s just scary…to know we were so close to something, something could really turn violent,” says Johnna Wolverton who lives behind one of the drug houses authorities raided. The mother of two small children installed the expensive barrier to protect her little ones after she became aware that dealers lived in the home.
CBS 11 has learned that the dealers used guns to protect the enormous amount of money and drugs found inside. A few blocks away, an undercover drug investigator takes CBS 11 to another house. It is a large ranch-style white house with a beautiful lawn. The house now belongs to another family, but the investigator, who did not want us to reveal his identity, said it looked just like this when it was a “grow” house.
A “grow” house is where marijuana is grown. Pictures CBS 11 obtained show rows and rows of large, bright green marijuana plants. Elaborate lights hang above them to maintain the perfect temperature and humidity for a good crop. Fans stand around the room and wirings surrounds the shrubbery. It’s a massive operation controlled by a Mexican drug cartel.
Is the Mexican drug cartel’s presence increasing here in North Texas? “Absolutely,” says the investigator showing us around. He admits it is ‘scary.’ “They’ll do whatever it takes to get into your neighborhood and hide.”
“That’s where we are finding the high powered weapons,” says Constable Ben Adamcik, who says he has helped the Dallas Police Department and Drug Enforcement Administration take down 40 of these homes in the last three years. It’s not common for Constables to get involved in this activity, but Adamcik is a former police officer and fighting drugs is his passion. The father and grandfather is determined to protect the children in the neighborhoods he protects.
Besides weapons, bullet proof vests and silencers, he shows us picture after picture of what he’s seized. It’s cocaine, ecstasy, ice, thousands of pounds of marijuana and hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug profits. The pictures have all been taken after raids of middle-to-upper class North Texas homes. Adamcik says the diving economy drove the Mexican cartel here. He says they are buying up the foreclosed houses and then hiding inside neighborhoods where no one suspects drug activity.
The Constable says, “It’s too easy to buy these houses.” But they’re not all Mexican cartels, Adamcik has helped shut down many domestic operations as well. Pictures show the work schedules and duty assignments that hung on the walls of three North Dallas houses for three years. One local organization was harvesting marijuana in three houses. The investigators show us a “harvest schedule” from 2005-to-2008. Law enforcement estimates this was a $3.2 million business run by a seven person ring.
“They were degreed. They were professionals,” says Adamcik as he describes the group that was running this operation. He says they even sent their “employees” to business schools. “The people they put underneath them, they actually sent them to a conference, a motivational conference like you would a legitimate business to make money.”
Investigators say the leader of the domestic operation lived in a penthouse above Mockingbird station in Dallas. They arrested the group without any problems, but the undercover drug investigator tells us that is not always the case- particularly with the Mexican cartel. He says he’s been in many armed confrontations.
Constable Adamcik says, “We always have to worry about booby traps and, if we’re worried about our safety, what do you think the residents should be worried about that live in the immediate area?”
Johnna Wolverton only learned that the house behind her belonged to a Mexican drug cartel after investigators closed it down. “It can scare you or make you more pro-active,” Wolverton said.
And being pro-active keeps people like Ed Fox, out patrolling. “I would encourage anybody to keep their eye out in their neighborhood, regardless of what they think of their neighborhood,” said Fox.
Here’s what law enforcement says you need to watch for:
-Sealed off windows
-Curtains that never open
-Possibly burglar bars
-Houses with very little activity.