Law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area fanned out this week to crack down on drug crime.
In Pasco on Wednesday, that led to another grow house bust in Dade City and an arrest in New Port Richey of a woman who said she was selling crack to support her children.
Kevin Doll, a spokesman for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, said the agency set a record last year with 36 grow house busts. The tally so far for 2008 is 18.
About 2 p.m. Wednesday, vice detectives found 46 marijuana plants in the house and detached workshop at 15834 Barry Road in Dade City, according to a report. The residence was outfitted with special insulation, retractable lighting, transformers and fans.
Jose Ramon Diaz, 56, was arrested on charges of cultivation of marijuana and theft of electricity. Power company officials said electricity was being diverted off the meter, the report said.
He was released from the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes after posting $5,150 bail.
About an hour later in New Port Richey, vice detectives arrested a 25-year-old woman in her car in a Sweetbay supermarket parking lot on Massachusetts Avenue. She had three children with her, a report says, and 10 crack cocaine rocks.
When confronted with the drugs, Amanda M. Hardy replied, "It feeds my babies," her arrest report said.
Hardy's mother took custody of the children. Hardy was charged with possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, sale of cocaine and child neglect. She was released from the county jail Thursday after posting $35,000 bail.
Doll, the sheriff's spokesman, was not swayed by Hardy's explanation.
"I've heard that from other defendants, that they do that to support their family," he said. "But you can make that excuse for any number of illegal crimes.
"Times may be hard. They're not that hard."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.