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Major Drug Busts Becoming Common

Discussion in 'Seasoned Tokers' started by kristoperobin1, May 18, 2002.

  1. Ontario

    In British Columbia, some police experts believe the illegal cultivation of marijuana is a bigger cash crop than the lumber industry.

    In Chatham-Kent, it's impossible to say whether illegal crops are worth more than the legal crops, but local police officers say the number of so-called grow houses - devoted to marijuana cultivation - are mushrooming, and keeping them under control is far more difficult than in the past.

    "There were grow operations a few years ago, but nothing like today," says a Chatham-Kent police officer who is actively involved in drug investigations.

    He spoke to Chatham The Week about the extent of the problem, and the challenges involved in trying to charge perpetrators, but asked that his identity and those of other drug squad officers not be used.

    Over the past few months the arrests of grow operations that once would have been considered extraordinarily large have become almost common. One night last week alone, two separate raids netted an array of hydroponic equipment and almost 400 marijuana plants. The officers didn't say how large each plant was, but estimated a fully grown marijuana plant has a street value of about $1,000.

    Despite a string of such arrests, the officer says there are many more grow operations than police have been able to target. In fact, raids of that size, that once were so rare that whenever they happened they resulted in major stories in the local media, are now routinely reported in a few paragraphs... if at all.

    "We'll learn some of the tricks to look for and ( the criminals ) will learn new ones to stay ahead of us. It never ends," the officer said. The use of aircraft and heat detecting cameras helps police find illegal drugs growing in fields, so many of the growers have moved the plants indoors.

    That not only gives them a location hidden from view, but it means they can grow year-round. The officer says that, in his opinion, some of these operations are run by sophisticated criminals who have agreements to supply major dealers.

    They frequently steal electricity to power the many high wattage light bulbs needed for the growing operations, and look for unobtrusive ways to vent extremely humid and sometimes pungent smelling air from the houses they use.

    The officer says some of the growers are extremely skilled and professional.

    "These people aren't growing all of this for Chatham-Kent." he said. "They grow for whoever will pay the most."

    Local police have had some success in nabbing the operators because of team work, the officer said. He wouldn't speak specifically on how the police officers are gathering drug related information but says the local Crimestoppers organization is very good and officers in different units cooperate closely.

    "We get good input," he said "A break and enter investigation can come up with information that helps the drug investigators, and we act as a team. It's cumulative, you work on one case and others come out of it."

    The paperwork detail over the past few years has changed as much as the nature of the growing operations. The court system is demanding a lot more documentation to obtain search warrants. The officer says three pages of documentation were commonly needed for search warrants at one time, while 10 to 15 are often needed today.

    "Short cuts lead to bad case law, so you have to make sure everything is beyond question," he said.

    And once a case has cleared the courts, disposing of the evidence also requires a lot of paperwork because drug offences are federal cases and local officials can't give the OK for disposal.

    All of which means more attention to detail than ever before, and results in police officers emulating business people in constantly looking for more efficient ways to carry out their duties.

    Chatham-Kent isn't alone in seeing this kind of increase in drug growing operations. The officer says police sources guess there are 10,000 growhouses in the Greater Toronto Area, and the officer says that almost all areas are seeing an increase in drug production.

    "We are a safe community, as safe as anywhere else," he says. "But you start shaking the trees and the bad guys will fall out. It's just the way it is right now."
     

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