By Shawn Chitnis

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Drug Enforcement Agency raided homes suspected of illegal marijuana grow operations on Wednesday around the city and county as the agency reports more cases of black market weed since the drug became legal in the state.

pot bust 2 Federal Agents Raid Homes, Bust Several Large Illegal Marijuana Grows

(credit: Hardy Jones)

“There’s this mystique around Colorado that marijuana is legal and it’s a free for all and that’s just not true,” said Timothy Scott, the acting assistant special agent in charge for the DEA. “There are rules and regulations about what you can do, how many marijuana plants you can grow and what you can do with it.”

Neighbors noticed activity on the 23000 block of East Whitaker early in the morning but did not realize it was a DEA operation until an hour later. They first noticed a U-Haul truck on its own before the law enforcement presence took over the street.

“That’s very nice for these people, they’re coming up to help them load their furniture up if they’re moving,” said Hardy Jones, he moved to Colorado last month and lives across the street. “All of sudden here’s DEA agents everywhere and police and I said ‘Oh no, they’re not moving.'”

Jones realized it was federal agents trying to seize a large amount of marijuana that would cover the entire driveway of the house. Neighbors noticed another raid just one street over as well.

“If they’re moving, they’re going to go somewhere else, permanently,” he said. “It’s a good thing in a way that they’re getting it out of here. You don’t want that sort of thing in the neighborhood.”

Agents said because of the ongoing investigation they could not release any details about the case. The houses itself could be a hazard because of the wiring and chemicals often found in grow operations. Those homes are also at risk for fires when not managed correctly.

pot bust 1 Federal Agents Raid Homes, Bust Several Large Illegal Marijuana Grows

(credit: Hardy Jones)

“If you’re not actually residing in the homes, you don’t have any specific issues,” said Scott. “With DEA we’re doing more marijuana cases now then when it was illegal.”

The DEA has noticed an increase in cases and warns homeowners there could be one on their street.

“If you’re not following those rules and regulations, even at the state level, we’re going to pay attention to you,” he said. “Look at this neighborhood for one, this is a very nice neighborhood, these homes are decently prices, maybe somewhat expensive homes.”

But no matter how nice the neighborhood, the home used at the time is left in an ugly state. The houses often need to be gutted and renovated and have wiring issues that are not up to code.

“In a neighborhood like this, when these marijuana grow are done, these homes are trashed,” he said. “What you’re eventually going to do is bring down the value of everyone’s homes.”

Jones says the raid his family watched outside their door was actually a teachable moment for his 10-year-old grandson. A boy old enough to ask questions and wonder what is going on across the street.

“They’re trying to make money illegally, that’s not the way to do it,” Jones said he told his grandson. “You need to go to school or have a job.”

The new resident of Colorado says he wasn’t expecting this in the neighborhood but isn’t surprised. He saw it back in Florida and says all homeowners have to be prepared to see something similar by their houses. Prior to the DEA showing up outside the house, Jones had not noticed the residents living at that home. He says he never saw anything suspicious but heard noises at night.

“I’m just glad that they got it out of here,” he said.

Shawn Chitnis reports weeknights for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Email him story ideas at smchitnis@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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