Pubdate: Tue, 08 Mar 2005
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Drug Squad Can't Keep Up

Start-Up Budget Estimated At $2.1M

Toronto police want to establish a new green squad to deal with the
proliferation of marijuana grow operations in the city, similar to the
Vancouver Police Department's Growbusters.

Citing concerns about safety, environmental hazards and organized
crime, police are asking the Toronto Police Services Board to consider
their request to establish a 15-member team including two detectives,
12 detective constables and one civilian.

The team's mandate would be to dismantle grow operations that require
"immediate police intervention, such as those discovered due to
floods, fires or during other investigations," says the report
prepared by the police service, dated Feb. 22 and signed by former
chief Julian Fantino.

The proposal is on the agenda of today's board meeting. Officers on
the proposed team would also be engaged in "proactive" investigations,
such as investigating tips from the public as well as preparing search
warrants, court cases, and dealing with the disposal of seized plants
and equipment.

"It is apparent that the TDS (Toronto Drug Squad) cannot continue to
adequately fulfil its overall mandate of drug enforcement, while
assuming the existing responsibility for the proliferation of grow
operations, without the allocation of additional resources," says the

In 2004, the drug squad "attended, assessed, and assisted with the
investigation and dismantling of 320 grow operations," the report
said. It's a dramatic increase compared to the 81 investigations
conducted in 2002.

The proposed team would fall under the command of the drug squad and
be divided into two groups of specially trained officers working
staggered shifts.

Police estimate the team's start-up budget would be about $2.1 million
in personnel and equipment costs, with that decreasing in subsequent
years after the required equipment is purchased.

The report concludes that a permissive public attitude, among other
things, has resulted in "a shift in the nature and location of indoor
grow operations, from large-scale operations in suburban detached
homes producing crops of 300 to 500 plants, to smaller-size operations
in apartment units and smaller homes that are located in more densely
populated inner-city areas."

The report includes a breakdown of costs associated with staff and
equipment. Officers would require non-standard police-issue items such
as helmets, raid jackets, respirators, repel suits and work gloves.
The team would also need a camcorder, cargo van as well as
"dismantling tools," such as wire cutters, pliers, a ladder and one
generator, approximate cost $4,000: "due to the dangers of
electrocution, members must have an alternative power supply source
available when dismantling."

Assistant Deputy Chief Emory Gilbert of policing support command is
scheduled to attend today to respond to board members' questions.

The report was prepared in response to a request by city hall long
before last week's slaying of four RCMP constables in Alberta that was
initially linked to a police raid on a suspected grow op.

Interim police Chief Mike Boyd's reaction to the tragedy last week was
in sharp contrast to other law enforcement officials and politicians
who immediately pressed for a crackdown and tougher sentences on
marijuana grow operators.

He said the focus at this time should be on the dead officers, not on
pushing a specific agenda.
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