Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 2003
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2003 The London Free Press
Author: Patrick Maloney, Free Press Reporter


Police Chief Brian Collins Says the Operations Present a Genuine Fire Risk.

Hot on the heels of a provincial report detailing the huge increase in
residential marijuana operations since 2000, London police seized $1
million in pot. The seizure yesterday -- in addition to a $340,000 pot
bust Wednesday -- proves the problem of home-grow operations has moved
into London neighbourhoods, police Chief Brian Collins says.

"This is a crime taking place in our residential areas and posing
risks to our citizens," Collins said yesterday. "This is something you
can't have in the community."

Eighty-six grow operations have been busted within the city over the
past year, including the Augusta Crescent home searched Wednesday.
Police aren't releasing the address of the grow operation busted
yesterday until the investigation is finished.

The threats home-grow operations pose to communities across the
province were outlined in a report released this week by Ontario's
Criminal Intelligence Service.

According to the report, grow houses are 40 times more likely than
other homes to catch fire. Police are having trouble keeping up with
the booming pot industry, but the main risk faces the residents who
live around these grow houses. Many have been poorly rewired to
secretly siphon extra hydro off the main grid and are booby-trapped to
keep people away.

"They are not done to any electrical code. We have had cases where
it's been like an electrical field around the house," Collins said.

"When we have children living next door to these makeshift
greenhouses, that's something that shouldn't be tolerated."

The report, which estimates Ontario growers have produced between $2
billion and $12.5 billion of marijuana since 2000, should serve as a
warning to law-abiding Londoners.

"The average family would not even know they're living next door to
one," Collins said. "These operations are grown in residential
neighbourhoods in what appears to be a normal house. The community has
to know these risks exist.

"The message has to get out that this is unacceptable to have in our

Collins says stiffer sentences for convicted pot growers would help
curb the illegal industry's growth -- grow houses increased by 250 per
cent in Ontario between 2000 and 2002 -- but it's also up to residents
to pay attention to nearby homes that are usually empty or neighbours
who keep strange, inconsistent hours.

The $1.3 million in pot plants seized over the past two days is
significant, but police say it's only a small part of the supply in
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