Police Search Marijuana Grow Operation in West Philly, Block Evacuated

Several homes were evacuated on the 4800 block of Cedar Ave during the response and the street has been blocked off to traffic.

A Hazmat team and police officers gathered in West Philadelphia Monday to investigate a marijuana grow operation inside a home, leading to the evacuation of several residents on the block.

A neighbor first reported a foul odor coming from a home on the 4800 block of Cedar Avenue. Narcotics officers and a Hazmat team arrived at the home to assess the situation and make sure it was safe to enter. Several homes were evacuated on the 4800 block of Cedar Ave during the response and the street was blocked off to traffic.

“We were just coming home to see everything blocked off,” one evacuated resident told NBC10. “My grandma comes in and she goes, ‘Well, someone has marijuana plants in the basement.’ As far as I know, we’ve never seen anything like this over 20 years we’ve been on the block.”

Officials say they discovered a large operation and 100 marijuana plants inside the home and removed them. When neighbors found out the reason for the police response and evacuations, some believed it was an overreaction.

"Four huge fire engines," said Erica Peterson. "It just feels really like overkill. Unless people are doing harm to other people. I know that drugs are a problem but in the scale of drugs, marijuana, I wouldn't see it as a terribly dangerous drug."

Police officers disagreed however and told NBC10 they found extension chords which used a lot of electricity inside the house to grow the plants. 

"One spark could take this whole block down," Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Scott Walker said. "So these are always of concern, especially nestled in a community like this with these homes so close."

The incident sparked debate among residents on the subject of marijuana.

"I think marijuana should be decriminalized and that money should be taxed and sent to the Philadelphia schools," said Abby Schottenfels.

While the owner of the home was not there at the time of the search, he's now facing drug charges as well as risking a catastrophe and reckless endangerment.

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