EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 19, 2013

Methuen drug raid nets one arrest, pot plants

Chief: Feds kept local police in dark

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Federal drug agents and state police made one arrest yesterday after raiding an apparent marijuana growing operation inside a single-family home near the Haverhill line.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Massachusetts State Police released no information about the incident, which occurred around midday at 21 Renfrew St., a side street off Route 110/113 not far from the Interstate 495 overpass.

Arrested was property owner Michael Warford, 30, according to Methuen police chief Joseph Solomon.

It is unclear what charges Warford faces, but Solomon said city health officials reported finding marijuana plants as well as hydration and heating systems within the Colonial-style home, which was built around 2001.

Solomon said the DEA largely kept Methuen police in the dark yesterday.

“I’m just not too happy with their lack of professionalism,” said Solomon. “Search warrants just don’t appear. Why wouldn’t you be forthcoming from one law enforcement agency to another?

“I’m not too happy at all with the agents. And I’ll be following it up with their boss.”

Solomon said his department was first notified of yesterday’s operation when a DEA agent contacted a patrolman to let him know the agency was in town. The patrolman — who formerly served as a detective — contacted his superior officer, who then called the DEA.

Solomon said the superior officer was told the DEA only planned to conduct surveillance at 21 Renfrew St. But the agency soon called back after searching the home to request the assistance of city health officials to investigate code violations, the chief said.

“They failed to communicate appropriately with local government,” said Solomon. “It wasn’t done the proper way. I’m just surprised. It just makes you wonder (about) the actual reason why they didn’t notify us.”

Solomon said improper notification of local law enforcement can create dangerous situations.

Several years ago, Solomon said FBI agents performed a search warrant at a Methuen home without notifying local police. When the suspect fled the home, Solomon said Methuen police received calls of a man being chased in the street by people with guns.

“And then all hell broke loose,” said Solomon.

Solomon said Methuen police proceeded to call in a state police helicopter. By the time his department was contacted by the FBI, Solomon said Methuen police had already apprehended the suspect.

A call to the DEA’s New England Division went unreturned yesterday. A spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police declined comment about the incident.