SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The city of Sacramento is taking steps to combat a growing problem.

Illegal marijuana grows in residential neighborhoods are thriving. A recent bust in the Natomas area has included several follow up break-ins. It’s an unsettling trend for people living in the area.

“I keep smelling a lot of marijuana in the area and it’s making me sick,” said Evangeline Butler, who lives nearby.

The warning signs were there for Butler.

“I’ve seen a couple of cars come in and out of that garage,” said Butler.

Last week, a home in Natomas was investigated after neighbor complaints.

“We have several teams stationed throughout the city that their sole job is marijuana enforcement,” said Eddie Maccauley with the Sacramento Police Department.

Inside the home, police found dozens of cannabis plants being grown illegally. Police boarded up the doors, but the plants were left behind.

“This isn’t an issue where we can arrest away the problem,” said Maccauley.

Police must get proper paperwork, including search warrants before removing the plants. The process could take days.

“It’s very manpower intensive to do one of these, just eradicate one of these houses,” said Maccauley.

During the holdover period, neighbors say there were several break-ins reported at the grow home.

“That’s scary,” said Butler, “they could break into anyone’s home around here.”

From the outside, it’s difficult to tell which house is the illegal home grow, but once you get close the smell can hit you right in the face. City officials say there may be hundreds of these hiding in the shadows.

“To date, we’ve served warrants on nearly 200 homes and issued over $38 million in fines and penalties,” said Joe Devlin.

Devlin is the Sacramento Cannabis Enforcement Chief. He says the city has dedicated teams to crack down on enforcement and have instituted harsh penalties.

“Anyone growing more than six plants in their home is subject to a $500 per plant fine,” said Devlin.

Still, the problem persists as the city works to increase access in the legal market while shutting the door on those operating in the shadows.

“It takes time,” said Devlin, “it takes a lot of resources.”

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