Pubdate: Tue, 22 Mar 2005
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2005 The Toronto Star
Author: Betsy Powell
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Politicians Hunt Drug Door To Door

'Almost Vigilantism,' Officers Contend

Two Scarborough politicians are going door to door in their neighbourhood 
looking for marijuana grow houses to report to police.

MP Jim Karygiannis (Scarborough-Agincourt) and Toronto Councillor Mike Del 
Grande (Ward 39, Scarborough-Agincourt) say their crusade to weed out 
grow-ops in the sprawling suburb is already proving a success. "This past 
week we closed another two, three," said Del Grande.

While applauding the politicians' "enthusiasm and efforts," 42 Division 
Supt. Tony Warr says they should stick to lawmaking and leave the 
lawbreakers to police.

"I think (they've) got to let the police do the police work ... we don't 
want anybody getting hurt," he said yesterday. "It's almost vigilantism - 
there could be some serious repercussions."

In an interview, Karygiannis outlined how the politicians have turned 
traditional door-knocking into a campaign.

"We're not there to say, 'Hey, you got a grow house?'" Karygiannis said. 
"When a guy opens the door, we'll say 'Are there any concerns that you 
have?' If he doesn't look suspicious, then you go to the next door. If 
people don't open up, you ask the next door, 'Hey you know, seen something 
strange? Smell anything?' This is how you get people involved."

Karygiannis says he recently went even further. He pulled up to a house 
flagged by neighbours as a probable grow-op, he says, and confronted two 
men standing outside the house. He suspected they were about to "tap into 
Hydro," to steal electricity needed for growing plants.

When one of the men "claimed to be fixing a garage door," Karygiannis 
parked his car in the driveway to prevent a van from leaving and called 
police. They arrested the men, said Karygiannis, crediting his "street 
smarts" for the detective work.

This past weekend, Karygiannis says, one of his constituents followed a car 
she'd seen at a neighbouring house suspected of being a grow operation.

"I got the licence plate and the car make," she said yesterday. Later, when 
another neighbour called to note the arrival of "a truck with no lights in 
the driveway," she called police - who came and left later with marijuana 
plants, she says.

"This is growing in front of our noses and we don't do anything and we 
can't stop it?" said the woman, who asked not to be named.

Karygiannis said he finds many people are prepared to take the initiative 
to help combat the spread of grow-ops. He said what he's doing is no 
different than "regular political canvassing."

A Toronto Police Service report, prepared as part of a request to the city 
for special funding for a team dedicated to dismantling grow-ops, 
concluded: "Present resources do not permit the proactive identification 
and investigation of suspected grow operations that are reported to police 
by the community. During 2004, the Toronto drug squad received several 
hundred Crime Stoppers tips but only a small percentage were acted upon."

Warr acknowledges the challenge facing police, particularly in east-end 42 
Division where a majority of the city's detected grow-ops turn up. Of the 
320 grow operations busted by Toronto police in 2004, 70 were in 
Scarborough. This year, police have raided and closed down more than 40 
operations there.

But Warr cautions against people becoming "independent agents" and carrying 
out investigations with the intention of passing information to police.

When police apply for a search warrant and cite suspicious activity, the 
source must be revealed, he says. If the method used to obtain the 
information is illegal, the search warrant won't be issued.

"When are you trespassing and when are you not trespassing? What legal 
authority do you have? I don't think it's the route to go," he said, 
suggesting the politicians redirect their energies to "lobby for more 
resources so we can do more about it."

Karygiannis said his hands-on involvement to weed out grow-ops comes down 
to trying to build awareness and promote more community involvement.

"We're not trying to promote vigilantism. We're trying to promote 'watch 
your neighbours.'"

He calls it "taking back the neighbourhood."

Part of that, Karygiannis says, is reaching out to some new Canadians in 
the area who come from cultures where minding your own business is a part 
of self-preservation. He has prepared a pamphlet with messages in seven 
languages about "what you can do to stop marijuana grow houses," and is 
holding a town hall meeting at St. Aidan Catholic Church March 31.

He and Del Grande belong to a marijuana task force, with a number of other 
Scarborough politicians, that hopes to step up education programs and 
encourage co-operation among agencies, such as public health departments 
and the Canadian Revenue Agency, to build cases against suspected grow-ops.
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