By Rick Sallinger

DENVER (CBS4)– Law enforcement officers raided more than a dozen suspected marijuana grow houses before dawn on Tuesday morning across the Denver metro area.

The officers were armed with search warrants and backed up by SWAT teams as they entered the suspected illegal grow houses. The officers traveled in an armor plated vehicle before they cleared each home for safety and began dismantling the operations.

Tuesday’s operation was the cumulative efforts of an extensive two-year investigation.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Teams moved quickly from one location to another. In one residential neighborhood near Arkansas and Vine, one girl came out of the home covered in a blanket. A short time later a man was escorted out by the agents.

Neighbors had little knowledge about what was going on inside the home nearby, “I’m shocked. I’m surprised. I wouldn’t expect it here.”

On South Pearl, the contents of the raid were piled up on the front lawn and included a giant bag filled with pot and rows of marijuana growing equipment.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“We smelled it a couple of times and thought the neighbors were smoking in their house, it was a big grow and I’m surprised they kept the smell down like they did,” said one neighbor.

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Police in Denver led the raids on homes and also warehouses believed to be involved in illegal grow operations.

“The fact that a grow may be unlicensed… that’s what prompted the investigation. We got information that we got unlicensed grows and we began to look into it a couple of years ago,” said Denver Police Commander Marcus Fontain.

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The operation included more than 20 locations in four counties but it’s not over. In addition to Denver police, the DEA, North and West Metro Drug Task Forces joined the operation along with the Colorado Attorney General, Department of Revenue and other law enforcement agencies.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.