Pubdate: Fri, 03 May 2002
Source: Standard, The (St. Catharines, CN ON)
Copyright: 2002, The Standard
Author: Karena Walter


The house at 166 Michael Dr. in Welland was one of eight homes raided in 
Niagara as part of Operation Green Sweep 2.The marijuana-growing season 
appears to be year-round in Niagara neighbourhoods as police hauled in 
another $1.3 million worth of plants from private homes in the last two weeks.

"It continues to be a real problem area," said Sergeant Tom MacLean of 
Niagara Regional Police's morality unit. NRP searched eight homes and 
charged 12 people for production, possession and trafficking of marijuana, 
as well as theft of hydro.

Six of the grow houses are believed to be run by large-scale Asian 
organized crime groups which converted the homes specifically for marijuana 

"They all put on the facade that they're lived in, but they're not lived in 
full time," said MacLean.

The findings were announced Thursday as part of the nationwide Operation 
Green Sweep 2 -- the sequel to January's synchronized one-day raid by 
police agencies across Canada.

This time, police were asked to hand in statistics on home-grow raids over 
a two-week period to get an idea of what drug squads are doing on a regular 
basis without extra resources.

Across Ontario, 122 search warrants were executed from April 15-30 and 125 
people were charged with 234 drug offences.

"It is a full-time job and this is what we're doing on a day-to-day basis," 
said Detective Superintendent Jim Hutchinson of the Ontario Provincial 
Police drug enforcement section.

He said if police had used extra resources and staff like they did in the 
first Operation Green Sweep, the numbers would be even higher.

The eight homes raided in Niagara were on Vine Street and Chestnut Street 
in St. Catharines, Glengate Avenue, Russell Street and Claude Avenue in 
Niagara Falls, Marlow Crescent in Grimsby, Michael Drive in Welland and 
Hillsview Drive in Beamsville.

Three of the homes had children in them.

The indoor grow operations have blossomed in Ontario in the last two years, 
having spread from British Columbia, and police here say it has become an 
epidemic. Police, firefighters and hydro workers have warned of the hazards 
of the homes, including the possibility of fire breaking out because of 
faulty illegal wiring. Firefighters in Niagara have been called to 13 
hydroponic fires in the last three years.

Of the eight homes raided in Niagara during the sweep, five had bypassed 
hydro, allowing growers to avoid detection while using huge amounts of 
hydro to simulate outdoor environments.

Richard Chrapala, director of engineering for Grimsby Power Inc., said all 
bypasses are dangerous because hydro thieves try to bypass the meter while 
wires are still live.

One particularly dangerous spot was at 14 Marlow Cres. in Grimsby where 
thieves cut a tiny hole in a steel conduit pipe, got to the live conductor, 
stripped off the insulation for exposure and then hooked up the bypass. "It 
was so tight and so dangerous, even our own crews didn't want to isolate 
the bypass because it still would have been a hazard at such a close 
proximity," Chrapala said.

The bypasses amaze hydro workers because of the risks taken when working 
with energized lines. "These guys are taking their lives in their hands," 
Chrapala said.

Police agencies would like to see greater penalties handed down to 
operators, who rarely serve jail time in Canada.

Across the country, 208 homes were searched during the two weeks and 255 
people were charged.

NRP have raided about 40 homes in the last year.

During the first Operation Green Sweep on Jan. 30, regional police raided 
five Niagara homes and six people were arrested.
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