String of Marijuana-Related Home Invasions Grips Sonoma County

Police are learning more about a string of home invasions that have gripped Sonoma County, and what they’ve uncovered has put the City of Petaluma and its surrounding areas on edge.

Seven men from out of state were arrested Monday for breaking into three homes, tying up residents, and even pistol whipping one them. Their motive? To obtain marijuana for a shipment back east.

There was just one problem: the marijuana the men were seeking did not exist. According to neighbors, the men may have been targeting a shuttered marijuana farm that was once the subject of numerous complaints in the neighborhood and chose the wrong houses instead.

“We knew this was going to happen,” said former resident Lisa Delzell. She says moved away in 2015 in part because of the illegal activity surrounding the farm.

Records show that, in 2006, sheriff’s detectives seized 555 marijuana plants from the property and made two arrests. That’s the only marijuana-related criminal activity on file for the past 12 years.

The Petaluma break-ins may not have been an isolated incident. This was the second time in a five-week period that Sonoma County experienced a marijuana-motivated break-in in which the suspects appear to have chosen the wrong house.

“Someone is making the call, someone is giving them addresses, someone is doing the intelligence behind it and ordering up the operation,” said Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum. “But they’re not accurate.”

Residents are fearful that another case of mistaken identity could be on the horizon. Meanwhile, some marijuana advocates fear the recent criminal activity could have a chilling effect on support for the industry as a whole.