Marijuana Grow-Ops in B.C. Jumped by 222 Percent

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Jun 14, 2002.

  1. By Camilla Bains, Canadian Press
    Source: Canadian Press

    People who run British Columbia's proliferating marijuana grow operations face little risk in the high-profit industry because police have no control of the situation reaching a crisis point, says a professor who headed the province's first comprehensive study of the problem.
    There was a 222 per cent increase in the number of illicit marijuana grow-ops in B.C. between 1997 and 2000, said Darryl Plecas, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley in suburban Abbotsford. "We're Colombia north," Plecas said in discussing the study that will be released Thursday. It says the Vancouver suburb of Delta experienced a 1,293 per cent jump in the number of marijuana grow-ops during the four-year period.

    Please see below for QuickFacts on marijuana grow-ops in British Columbia.

    "We have three times the national average (of grow-ops) and seven times the national average if you look at those jurisdictions in B.C. that have the highest concentration of growth," Plecas said.

    The study reviewed almost 12,000 cases of alleged marijuana cultivation cases investigated by police in every B.C. RCMP detachment and municipal police force between 1997 and 2000.

    During that time, police seized 1.2 million plants and 8,646 kilograms of harvested marijuana, with an estimated value of between $462 million and $1.25 billion, the study said.

    "The growth has been so great, so fast, that they've been unable to respond to the extent that they might have liked to," Plecas said.

    "In 2000, there were 23 per cent of cases that they couldn't take action on; they just couldn't get to them," he said, adding police lack the resources needed to stem the increase in grow-ops producing high-grade B.C. bud that's exported worldwide.

    The majority of cases police investigated came to light after anonymous tips from neighbours or landlords or when police happened to find a grow-op while serving a warrant, for example, Plecas said.

    Only five per cent of grow-op investigations resulted from proactive police work.

    "I think that's important for people to know because it says that police aren't going out of their way to get these," he said.

    "All they're doing is trying to handle the volume that's been given to them and clearly it's reached the point where it looks like they're losing it, that they're not able to handle it."

    RCMP spokeswoman Const. Danielle Efford said the study confirmed the belief among police agencies that the number of B.C. grow-ops has increased substantially in the last few years.

    "We certainly are doing our job at enforcing the laws," Efford said.

    But she wouldn't comment on whether police lack resources.

    "I'm not going to say that there are not enough cops or there are enough. What we're going to have to do is analyse this report . . . and reassess what we're doing.

    "We target the organized crime groups that are heavily involved and will continue to target these groups, these major players that are at the top."

    In the majority of cases, suspects during the 1997 to 2000 period were Caucasian males in their mid-30s, usually with an average 13-year criminal history, Plecas said.

    There was also an almost 20-fold increase in the number of Vietnamese suspects involved in illegal grow-ops in the Greater Vancouver area, he said.

    Plecas said he didn't know why but that twice as many Vietnamese grow-op suspects came to British Columbia from Ontario compared with their Caucasian counterparts.

    Criminal organizations in general have been moving their marijuana grow-ops to British Columbia from other provinces or from neighbouring states.

    "There is concern about how the huge profits realized by the marijuana growing operations can be used by organized criminal elements to finance other activities or to illegally control other markets or parts of the local economy," says the lengthy report.

    Plecas said there are few consequences for those whose grow-ops are busted because sentences are not severe enough or, in many cases, charges are dropped if the case took too long to get to court.

    That's an issue even when many grow-op suspects are seasoned criminals with an average of seven prior convictions, including those that involve drugs, he said.

    Police must consider a more strategic approach to dealing with the problem instead of concentrating on the impact of other drugs such as cocaine, Plecas said.

    "When marijuana becomes a commodity to purchase cocaine then you would think there's a reason to take another view of it."

    Increasingly higher yields of B.C. bud, helped by sophisticated grow-op technology such as special timers and automatic watering and plant feeding systems, also pose a threat of violence in neighbourhoods where the problem is becoming endemic, the study says.

    The rate of hydroponic equipment outlets per hundred thousand population is five times more accessible in British Columbia compared with Alberta and 10 times that of Washington state, Plecas said.

    He said there were 508 ads for hydroponic equipment in the 2000-2001 Yellow Pages in British Columbia - "50 times as many as Washington state and 30 times as many as Alberta."

    Most of the illegal operations are in private homes where the risk of fires created by modified electrical equipment is also high, Plecas said.

    The total amount of electricity stolen to keep illicit marijuana grow-ops functioning during the four years the study considered was estimated at $3.5 million, with $1.5 million for 2000 alone, the study said.

    Chief Const. Jim Cessford of the RCMP detachment in Delta said police have held community meetings to educate people on how to spot homes that may include grow-ops to try to control the problem.

    Signs of a possible grow-op include windows covered with aluminum foil to preserve heat in the home, he said.

    Facts from a study about the alarming growth rate of marijuana grow-ops in B.C between 1997 and 2000.:

    Growth rate: 222 per cent.

    Biggest increase: In Delta, B.C., where grow-ops jumped by 1,293 per cent.

    Some reasons for increase: Lack of police resources, light sentences and stayed charges because of court delays.

    Number of plants seized during four-year period: 1.2 million.

    Estimated value of pot seized: Between $462 million and $1.25 billion.

    Scope of study: Reviewed almost 12,000 cases of alleged marijuana cultivation.

    Typical person involved: Caucasian male in his mid-30s with an average 13-year criminal history.

    Average number of days before police began investigating cases: 29 days in 2000 compared to 17 in 1997.

    Dollar amount of electricity stolen to power grow-ops: $3.5 million.

    Complete Title: Marijuana Grow-Ops in B.C. Jumped by 222 Percent in Four Years: Expert

    Source: Canadian Press
    Author: Camilla Bains, Canadian Press
    Published: Thursday, June 13, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 The Canadian Press

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