Pubdate: Wed, 22 May 2002
Source: Chatham This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Bowes Publishers Limited
Author: Ellwood Shreve


The drug trade continues to be a major problem in Chatham-Kent, 
particularly for marijuana and crack cocaine, and local police believe a 
major reason is that the length of jail sentences given to convicted drug 
dealers is not an effective deterrent.

Nine major marijuana grow operations have been discovered by the 
Chatham-Kent Police Service's Drug Enforcement Section since the beginning 
of the year, resulting in $1.8 million worth of drugs being seized, along 
with $50,000 in stolen property and $100,000 worth of hydroponics growing 

Those seizures, along with continued crack cocaine trafficking, has 
prompted local police to lobby the Federal Prosecutor's Office and Crown 
Attorney to recommend longer sentences for repeat offenders.

"(Drug trafficking) has been an ongoing problem for many years," says 
deputy police chief Dennis Poole. He says Chatham-Kent is not the only 
community facing this problem; it's a nation-wide phenomenon.

Poole says the frustrating part for police is that most of these drug 
dealers are back in business within hours of being released from jail. The 
deputy chief notes there are certainly established dealers in the community 
that police will target as resources permit or as information develops from 
tips such as through  Crime Stoppers.

But, Poole says the fact remains that "the (drug) business is so lucrative, 
and the risk of apprehension is so low, that the incentive to not be 
involved in it is not strong enough, despite the (penalty) of jail."

"The only way (the police) can protect the community from the effects of 
this problem is to have longer periods of incarceration for convicted drug 
dealers," says Poole.

Some challenges police face is the fact marijuana is considered to be a 
"soft drug" by the judiciary, resulting in shorter sentences.

However, a power-point presentation to members of the Police Services Board 
at its May 15 meeting by deputy chief Jack Chambers showed the "grow 
houses" that have been discovered in Chatham-Kent are complex operations.

Highly sophisticated wiring, most often involving the theft of hydro to run 
the thousands of dollars worth of hydroponic equipment, is used along with 
a series of duct work to keep the air flowing in the tightly sealed homes 
that reach temperatures of 30-plus degrees Celsius.

The investment in these grow houses is considerable, but so are the returns 
with each marijuana plant being worth $1,000 when fully grown.

Police have also discovered hidden cameras that have been set up to watch 
the grow operations in mainly rented houses, and weapons such as guns and 
knives have been seized from grow houses.

Chambers notes these hydroponic grow operations have been discovered in 
homes where people never expected it, and the neighbours didn't know what 
was taking place.

When it comes to trafficking the highly addictive crack cocaine, Poole 
notes nine times out of 10 a drug dealer will only be caught with a small 
quantity of the drug, which impacts on the sentence that is given.

"We believe that those trafficking, especially in crack cocaine, need to go 
to jail for a long time," says Poole.

Crack cocaine creates "significant societal issues" that takes a toll on 
the lives of those addicted to the drug, says Poole. He notes those hooked 
on crack have to feed that addiction, which often results in them 
participating in criminal activity to get the money. As well, children of 
parents addicted to crack tend to suffer from neglect as their parents 
focus on feeding their habit.

An analysis of local crime statistics indicates a direct trend of increased 
break and enters at both residential and commercial properties when a crack 
dealer is operating and/or was recently released from jail.
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