Pubdate: Mon, 17 Nov 2003
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2003 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Author: Tom Zytaruk
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Can Surrey Really Control Its Problem With Marijuana Growing Operations?

Local police and politicians are hoping 20 new police officers dedicated to 
the task will turn the tide on what looks like an increasingly unbeatable 
battle in this city.

Surrey RCMP officers broke down three grow-ops in swank city neighbourhoods 
Thursday to highlight the unveiling of their new team.

Standing outside one of the houses, Surrey Coun. Gary Tymoschuk, chairman 
of the city's public safety committee, told reporters the city will hire 
another 55 RCMP officers between now and the middle of next year.

"We do not want to tolerate any grow operations in our city. We'll do 
everything we can."

Despite his news, skeptical journalists inquired how the battle can be won 
when the courts are imposing small fines against pot growers.

"I'm not very happy about that at all and I think most people in the city 
of Surrey are not happy about that either," Tymoschuk said. "I would hope 
the message gets through to the courts."

He added Surrey residents have to get "fired up about this."

Earlier Thursday, a group of young RCMP officers met at the detachment to 
set out their plan of attack for the day, targeting homes believed to 
contain grow-ops run by Vietnamese organized crime.

The first house they raided was at 8487-166th St. Before heading out with a 
battering ram and police dogs, their leader reminded them to beware of 
booby traps. Moments after arriving at the big pink house, police had a 
27-year-old man in custody and began hauling a couple of hundred plants out 
of the house.

Later, police raided a fortified house at 11028-159th St. in Fraser 
Heights. There were steel doors behind the regular doors, bars on the 
windows and a wireless camera system believed to be monitoring another 
grow-op nearby.

A couple turned the corner, spotted police and drove off but were soon 

"They had $10,000 cash with them inside the car," Surrey RCMP Const. Tim 
Shields noted. "It also appears they have just returned from court to deal 
with another marijuana grow-operation charge."

The house is worth about $400,000.

"Many of these homes are being run by Vietnamese organized crime," Shields 
said. "They are new homes, they are very expensive and they are not rented, 
but owned."

The idea, he said, is to hurt the growers financially by seizing property 
bought with the proceeds of crime.

"The bottom line is, we're trying to take the profit out of it," he said.

On Wednesday, he noted, Thao Heidi Doan was convicted of growing pot and 
ordered by B.C. Supreme Court to forfeit her $400,000 house at 17768-100th 
Ave. to the Crown as proceeds of crime. Shields said it was the third 
Surrey property forfeited this year and 11 others are in the queue.

"We're going after the houses, after the vehicles, at times after high-end 
furniture inside the house," Shields said. "If we can prove that those 
items were purchased with the proceeds of crime, then we'll be going after 

The Fraser Heights house is near Erma Stephenson elementary school. One 
neighbour, who requested anonymity, said it's "sad" living near a grow-op. 
"It's sad because we have to worry about our families," the woman said.

Police investigated 698 grow-ops in Surrey last year.

"That is only maybe a small indication of how many we actually have," 
Shields said. He noted that the 20 new officers should enable police to 
take down three or four grow ops every day.
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