Pubdate: Sun, 10 Feb 2002
Source: West Kootenay Weekender (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Nelson Daily News
Author: Chase Jestley


Kootenay RCMP Are Warning Residents And Landlords To Keep An Eye Open
For Pot Growing Operations Right Next Door

A neighbor doesn't have a job, but seems to have all the latest toys
and lots of company.

According to Const. Kim Bloy of the Creston RCMP, that could be an
indicator that there's a marijuana grow operation going on.

"In most cases, we get our complaints from neighbours of unusual
activities," Bloy said.

"And we get calls from CrimeStoppers, for people who want to remain

Other indicators could include: windows that are covered that weren't
before; lights coming on at unusual times; and, hoses running from
building to building.

"Even unloading of a bunch of equipment that seems unusual for a
house, or moving in at midnight when it could have been done during
the day," he said.

According to Bloy, receiving a tip from the public doesn't mean the
RCMP are going to automatically storm the premises.

"We have to collect evidence," he said.

"And we can't trespass, so observations would have to be what could be
normally observed from the edge of the property.  It can take anywhere
from one week to a couple of months to get an approved search warrant
and hopefully a conviction."

Bloy said that currently there are between 10 and 20 suspected indoor
grow operations in the Creston Valley which RCMP are following up on.

Once police have obtained a search warrant, what they find inside of
the building can often be quite shocking.

"I've been in residences where the electrical and plumbing have been
altered, and hardwood floors have been cut through," Bloy said.

"A lot of damage is done by lower-end growers, where they will
plastic-in entire rooms.  That causes a lot of condensation that gets
into the walls and floors."

For one Creston landlord, dealing with the damages left behind by a
grow operation has left her with a sour taste when it comes to renting

"I've been renting since 1990," said Corrine Wilcox.

"It makes me feel like I don't want to rent anymore. I just can't take

Following a two-month rental to a tenant, Wilcox said she was left
with a rental property that had more than $3,500 in damages and all
the signs that it had been used for a grow operation.

"She had taped all the windows off in the back two bedrooms with red
tape," Wilcox said.

"The walls are mildewy.  She cut holes in the ceiling for ventilation,
down through the floor also.  And the wiring was tampered with."

The electrical modifications required Wilcox to have an electrician in
to recertify the trailer for safety.

"It cost me $1,300 in that one trailer to have it certified and safe
to use," she said.  "The electrician has put that approximately $500
was from their tampering.  They cut the dryer wiring."

Wilcox said holes to run wires and hoses through were also cut in the

According to Bloy, insurance companies are in some cases delining
damage claims in instances of grow operations.

"Ultimately, it falls back on the homeowners to get damages back from
the renter," he said.

"I've known a lot of landlords that have been stuck with horrendous

In Wilcox's case, she has some insurance coverage but it doesn't cover
very much, she said.

"They call it an idiot tenant," she said.  "To me, it's out and out
vandalism.  It's premeditated."

Discovering that a rental property had been used for a grow operation
is not grounds to pursue drug charges against the former tenant, Bloy

"After the fact, there's nothing we can do," he said.  "We'll take it
down as information that can be used in cases down the road."

Although there isn't any way to prevent a rental property from being
used as a grow operation, there are some precautions that can be taken.

"All I can recommend is that landlords check the references of the
people," Bloy said, "and ensure that they are good references, not
just the guy down the road.  And make sure you know your rights under
the landlord/tenants act."

"It's advice that Wilcox wishes she had received earlier.

"I never checked out other places where she lived," Wilcox said. "I
had absolutely trusted her.  But I wouldn't do it again."
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