Large scale marijuana operation uncovered

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The Johnston Police Department, in a collaborative effort between members of the Glocester Police Department, executed a high risk search warrant at 4 and 6 Dante Avenue on August 22 which uncovered a large drug operation.

According to Deputy Chief Joseph Razza, police acted on credible and reliable information as detectives had reason to believe that a sizable and sophisticated illegal marijuana growing operation was taking place at the residence.

Razza stated that the department seized approximately 20 immature marijuana plants and 16 mature plants. Also seized at the conclusion of the search warrant were numerous firearms and a distribution amount of cocaine and marijuana.

“Everything came back, in terms of the firearms, all legal. There’s no obliviated serial numbers; everything was legal to possess,” said Razza.

Also taken was approximately $20,000 in cash in various denominations.

Subsequently taken into custody were Arron L. Leiter, 29, who resides at 4 Dante Avenue, Johnston, and Michael A. Salm 37, with a last known address of 196 Bender Road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This represents the second major drug bust in Johnston this summer. On July 20, members of the Johnston Police Narcotics executed a search warrant at 9 Brown Ave., 194 feet from Brown Avenue School. A search of the residence resulted in the discovery of a marijuana cultivation operation in which 47 plants were seized along with thousands of dollars worth of equipment associated with a marijuana grower. The owner of that residence, Hector Rosa, 43, who had no previous record, was taken into custody.

“I don’t think we have any more or any less of a drug problem than any other community of our size. I think that we try to proactively police it as best as possible,” said Razza. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I think what doesn’t help us is all of these medical marijuana cards and everyone having some type of legal stance in possessing marijuana nowadays and the decriminalization of it.”

Razza added that the town doesn’t have an overabundance of overdoses. However, the department has had to administer Narcan, used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose, several times.

“To say that Johnston has a specific issue with drugs, I would say no,” said Razza. “To me, we probably have the same issues that any other community has of our size.”

Leiter and Salm are being charged with possession and distribution of a controlled substance near a school, carrying a dangerous weapon during a crime of violence, and conspiracy. Additional arrests and charges are pending.

“Because of the crime itself of cultivating and possessing, that’s considered a crime of violence. The act and the commission of the crime itself is considered an act of violence,” said Razza.

Razza stated that this was a lengthy investigation and collaborative effort between members of the Johnston and Glocester Police Departments.

“Our teams, they train for this. There’s one thing that both the chief and the mayor both believe in and that’s having a well-trained department to handle any situation. I was there for the operation, and because of the demographics and the layout of both buildings the team had to be divided. They had a coordinated effort to hit both locations at the same time,” said Razza. “I may be a little bit biased on this, but they did a phenomenal job.”

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