Pubdate: Wed, 10 Nov 2004
Source: Duncan News Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Duncan News Leader
Author: Peter Rusland, staff reporter
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Cowichan cops are barely touching the roots of the Valley's growing
commercial drug problem.

And they won't until more resources are freed up to tackle the
organized crime problem, according to North Cowichan/Duncan's top cop.

RCMP Inspector Linton Robinson estimates up to 600 local grow-ops
producing high-potency marijuana bud that fetches up to $4,000 a pound
in the United States are active within his detachment area.

"We're lucky if we know of 25 per cent of grow-ops.

"We've identified 60 grow-ops in our detachment so far this year but
only 15 have been busted. That's only because of our resources; we
just can't get around to them all."

Instead, his officers prioritize indoor grow-op busts based on size
and theft of hydropower.

"There was a time when grow-ops probably consisted of two to four
lights of 1,000 watts each," the top cop says.

"Now we're into large grow-ops; we recently took one down in the
number of 50 lamps - that's a substantial size."

The web of grow-ops reaches across Cowichan, housed in residences and
buildings of all sizes, he told Duncan council Monday. Robinson says
Joe Citizen runs few hydroponic havens.

"Mom-and-pop grow-ops happen but what we're dealing with isn't what I
call granny grows.

Instead, the sheer number and type of marijuana-growing operations in
Cowichan typifies how organized crime has quietly taken root in
communities across B.C.

"Who'd have thunk?" RCMP Inspector Linton Robinson of the North
Cowichan-Duncan detachment muses while telling tales about serious
crime linked to the local cannabis trade.

"We've had guns held to heads to collect (drug) debts around here and
that's quite common," he says of small grow-op cells headed by
"lieutenants" believed to be taking orders from the Mafia, Hells
Angels or other gangs.

"That's the risk of doing business with these individuals; they're
ruthless and will do whatever has to be done to make

"These individuals all know each other. We're always just a step
behind so what's happening in the Lower Mainland has its tentacles to
this area."

That's why he wants the local arm of the law to get

"More manpower's needed. Fortunately we haven't had any homicides
connected yet."

His detachment is working with integrated RCMP drug enforcement teams,
Revenue Canada and outside drug agencies "but we need a better handle

One weapon is a more streamlined system of seizing the spoils of drug
raids, including vehicles, cash, property and equipment then recycling
them back to community crime-fighting.

"Assets should come back to the RCMP after costs to lawyers and others
but at the end of the day there's not much after disbursements," he
says, noting seized cash is turned over to the federal assets branch.

"I haven't seen any funding come back to us here."

Meanwhile, Robinson's officers face plenty of danger during grow-op
and drug-ring busts.

"During take downs, firearms in residences of this nature are
commonplace in the Valley.

"Members have to be cognizant of booby traps going into a grow-op that
could be run by organized crime because this is their

Busts also uncover dope other than pot.

"It's not uncommon to find narcotics like cocaine plus cash because
they're dealing; crystal meth's the big drug now."

Cowichan's closeness by boat to the U.S. border simply helps hide the
cargo of cannabis and other drugs.

"Pot's worth more than cocaine in the States and they're taking it
over in hockey bags," he says, lamenting it takes drug cases longer to
filter through Canada's judicial system compared to the American courts.

"The kingpins are making big bucks and the little guys (dealers) are
getting picked off by the police."

There's no special drug squad in the Valley but Robinson says he's
aiming for one.

"I've got a game plan; I'm talking to other detachments and we'll
watch what happens; it would be timely.'
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