A cellphone camera can be just as handy as a pocketknife for a fully prepared Boy Scout.
Case in point: The late September campout at Longview Lake by a south Kansas City Boy Scout troop that led to the arrest of two people and the destruction of a marijuana patch growing on Jackson County parkland.
Law enforcement, which has held details of the incident closely because the investigation is continuing, agreed to speak about it only if The Star agreed not to identify the troop to avoid any repercussions for the boys.
Still, they gave credit to the Scouts for reporting the field and to their leaders for assisting with arrests afterward. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp recently awarded the troop a commendation, thanking it for contributing to the destruction of 40 mature marijuana plants worth about $40,000.
“They did the right thing,” said Dan Cummings, an Independence police captain who leads the Jackson County Drug Task Force.
The adventure began midafternoon on Sept. 29. The troop brought about 40 boys to the lake for an overnight event that really wasn’t planned as the camping highlight of the year, said Brent Parsons, a Kansas City police detective and Scout volunteer.
After setting up the tents, a couple of the older boys began exploring what appeared to be a wildlife trail leading into a wooded area about a half mile from camp.
There they found about three dozen marijuana plants, some standing 5 or 6 feet tall. The boys documented the find with photos on a cellphone camera and headed back to camp.
Parsons and a police commander in camp confirmed the find and summoned a park ranger who, in turn, called in a Jackson County sheriff’s deputy.
The deputy, the troop’s adult quartermaster and the Scouts who found the dope then headed back to take a look.
Things got dynamic pretty quickly.
As the group approached the site, they saw five people harvesting the pot. The deputy and the quartermaster corralled two of the farmers and called back to camp for more help.
Parsons ran to assist the quartermaster and cuff his suspect, while the appeal for help somehow went out over the law enforcement radio system as an emergency “officer needs assistance” call.
That always guarantees a robust response.
Soon 17 police cars, one from as far away as Lone Jack, screamed into the campsite, bringing dogs and ATVs to scour the woods for the remaining suspects.
“We had officers all over the place,” Parsons said. “It was insanely awesome for those kids. Wide eyes, jaws drop. Lots and lots of excitement. It was Christmas times 10.”
Officers never found the other three suspects, and the two they had weren’t that helpful. One said she was there to catch catfish, though police could find no fishing gear nearby, Cummings said. The other said he merely was scouting locations for an airsoft gun war games tournament.
Still, signs of cultivation were everywhere. As they cut down the stalks, authorities recovered five-gallon buckets filled with water and fertilizer and found fertilizer pellets in the ground near the plants.
“It was obvious this wasn’t wild ditch weed,” Cummings said.
After questioning the suspects, officers released them pending further investigation, which continues.
Confining the pumped-up boys to their tents that night, never an easy task even on routine campouts, was a little harder that evening, Parsons said. He and another officer kept watch through the night.
“We kept (the Scouts) a little closer to the vest in case any of those knuckleheads were still wandering around,” Parsons said.
As marijuana cultivation goes, the site uncovered by the Scouts was relatively small, Cummings said. His task force recently helped a nearby county destroy a marijuana crop 25 times larger than the patch at Longview Lake.
Still, Cummings said he liked what he saw in that Scout troop.
“There are some budding detectives there,” Cummings said. “Maybe I should offer them jobs.”