PALM COAST, Fla. – Palm Coast neighbors complained about two homes in a relatively quiet neighborhood receiving unusual traffic, and deputies listened. That led to breaking up two houses that deputies say were being used to traffic drugs.
Flagler County sheriff deputies said they got calls about cars coming and going, parking in driveways on Pine Grove Drive and Fariston Lane, with most of the vehicles staying less than a minute.
Confidential informants confirmed what detectives suspected, that the residents of the two homes were running a major drug-dealing operation.
An undercover investigator, known only as Detective Rodriguez, said the informant was able to buy drugs in the driveway of one of the homes.
When detectives obtained a search warrant, they said they discovered a dozen shotguns, assault-style rifles and pistols, $46,000 and several pounds of marijuana.
"We found a large gun safe loaded up with an arsenal of weapons and more ammunition than I've probably seen in my life," Rodriguez said. "And then 5 pounds of marijuana."
Detectives said they arrested three men who, working together, were likely the main source of the marijuana problem in Palm Coast.
Authorities say the marijuana problem in Flagler County is causing a ripple effect of crimes.
"Most of the drug-related violence in this county is surrounding marijuana," Rodriguez said. "Its value is through the roof, the supply and demand, so typically we see drug deals gone bad. There's been people shot, killed, all kinds of things surrounding marijuana."
Rodriguez said illegal marijuana dealing and stealing causes more violence than any other drug-- cocaine, crack and heroin included.
"I think people realize anyone can come and try to take this guy's $46,000 or drugs or weapons and that would lead to a shootout, all types of things," Rodriguez said. "It was just a matter of time. At the wrong time of day, there could be a round going through a window and hitting a small child."
Rodriguez said the Flagler County Sheriff's Office handles about a complaint a day from neighbors about drug activity.
"Since Sheriff Staly has taken over, his administration has focused on drugs and dealers in this county and we're doing everything we can," Rodriguez said. "I feel like any time we put handcuffs on someone and disrupt their lives and let them know we know who they are and what they are doing, it is a result."
All three men bonded out of jail after their arrest.
Deputies said some of them would likely serve little to no prison time because the amount of marijuana they are accused of possessing - as much as it was - falls below the trafficking minimum.
A recently-enacted Florida law carries a minimum prison sentence for the conviction of trafficking small amounts of heroin.