Pubdate: Sat, 13 Oct 2007
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Brantford Expositor
Author: Vincent Ball


Wearing shorts, T-shirts, mobile radios and heavy bullet-proof vests,
a group of police officers is scouring a forested area off Brant
Church Road.

It's about an hour before dusk and they are wading through grass three
feet high, ducking under branches and keeping their footing on rough,
rocky terrain.

They're looking for two Vietnamese guys who jumped out of a car
they've been following all the way from Tim Hortons on Garden Avenue.

It's a beautiful fall evening. The country air is clear and fresh.
It's quiet.

"Get down!"

Everyone Runs

The calm of the evening is crushed and everyone starts running.
Stumbling over rocks, jumping over a creek and climbing small ledges
hidden by the grass, the officers scurry to the scene.

They arrive and find the two men sitting on the ground in handcuffs.
The officers have only one question.

"Where's the weed boys? Going to tell us where it is?"

The two men either can't speak English or pretend they can't. It's
hard to tell. Either way, they're not giving up the grow-op and the
officers gear up for another search.

This time they're looking for weed - an outdoor marijuana grow-op all
their instincts say has to be nearby.

Walking through numerous fields, the officers look closely at tree

An outdoor marijuana grow-op needs just the right amount of sunlight,
the right amount of shade for protection and reasonable access from
the road.

Brant OPP is called to help deal with the two men in custody and to
determine if they want to take over the investigation. It is, after
all, in their territory.

Some officers head back into the woods, a couple of others walk down
Brant Church Road. Still others remain with the prisoners.

The search is frustrating. About the only thing of interest spotted by
the officers is a deer that stares back at them before running off.

Some 45 minutes later, the police radio starts crackling with

"Found it," an officer says.

Sgt. Randy Batson, head of the street crimes unit of the Brantford
Police Service, smiles. His team has scored a hit and if the
excitement in the officer's voice is any indication of what's to come,
the find is a major discovery.

Directions are shared over the radio and soon the entire street crimes
unit, with the exception of Batson, who stays with the prisoners and
the OPP, is looking at the outdoor grow-op.

"Wow," says one officer.

"Look at the size of this," another exclaims. "It's got to be 300 or
400 plants."

Collectively, the officers have 50 or more years experience and this
is one of the biggest outdoor grow-ops they've ever seen.

"Look at the bud on this," says one. "This is a well-cultivated

One of the officers is close to six foot four. But even he can't look
over the top of the tallest plant in the crop.

The crop covers an area about half the end zone of a football field.
The property owner is interviewed by police and claims not to have any
real knowledge of the grow operation. Nonetheless, he does agree to
let the police remove the crop.

Then, the grunt work begins. The plants are cut down, placed into a
wheelbarrow, tied down and pushed up a path to a police van and pickup

It is hot, sweaty work and the smell of the plant, at first pleasant,
becomes noxious. Everyone handling the plants wears gloves. If it had
been an indoor grow-op, they would have worn a protective body suit.

Working quietly and efficiently, the officers continue to be amazed by
the size of the crop. They are also fascinated by a couple of dogs
constantly sniffing around them and the crop.

The dogs are mellow, chewing on rocks and pebbles.

"Hmm, even dogs get the munchies," one wag says.

It takes a couple of hours to cut down the plants and when it's all
done, a police van and pickup truck are full. It's going to be a fun
ride back to the barn - the affectionate nickname street crime guys
have given the Brantford Police station.

Everyone is speculating on the size of the haul. Some say 300 plants,
others 350, the highest guess put the crop at about 400 to 425 plants.

It takes 20 minutes to get to the barn and, after arriving, the
counting begins. A count sheet is set up and a tick is recorded on the
sheet every time an officer reaches 20 plants.

The grand total is 721 plants worth about $1,000 each. That makes the
haul worth $721,000, the biggest single outdoor grow-op most of these
officers have ever seen.

The size of the grow-op astounds the officers and they can't help but
think how the investigation began.

After spending two hours muddling through a pile of paper work, the
street crimes unit officers had gathered at Tim Hortons on Garden
Avenue for a coffee before heading out to the street.

It's the only break they get in a shift that often stretches to 10 and
12 hours.

Sitting in the Timmy's, one of the officers sees a familiar face. It's
a Vietnamese man the officer had recently arrested on drug charges.

The sighting was no big deal, but the officer notices the man is
accompanied by a few other men. When everyone heads out to the parking
lot, the officer sees some of them pulling on rubber boots. Something
is up and the street crimes officers decide to follow them. They
follow the suspects out of Brantford down Cockshutt Road to Burtch

Surveillance continues until a couple of their suspects jump out of
the car and head into the bushes.

The seizure caps an eventful, exciting and sometimes frustrating week
for the street crimes unit. It was a week that began with a trip to
the Hamilton area.

Heading to Hamilton to Replenish Supply

Draining the last remnants of their coffee, the officers head out to
their vehicles. It's their first shift back after a week of training
and they're working the night shift - 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

They're eager to get back on the street and decide to split up for a
while. One officer goes Red Zone - the downtown area of Brantford -
while others will check out other neighbourhoods, including Eagle
Place and Holmedale.

Still another officer heads to a north end apartment

"We've got a lot of intel on this guy in this building," Det. Const.
Jason Nagy says. "We've got seven tips including three calls from
citizens saying this guy is dealing crack from his apartment."

His colleague, Det. Const. Jim Sawkins, heads to the apartment
building and circles it a couple of times before settling into a
parking spot. He has a good view of the suspect's apartment as well as
an entry into the building.

Five minutes after Sawkins arrives, the suspect is out of the
building. He removes the licence plates from one vehicle, carries them
over to another vehicle and chats with some neighbours before heading
into his apartment.

He may be up to something, but he hasn't dealt any crack and after an
hour or so, it's time to move on.

Staying in the north end, Sawkins checks out a crack house in a nice
middle-class neighbourhood. The lights are off, no vehicles are in the
driveway and, after watching the home for a half hour or so, it's time
to move on.

The team converges on the Red Zone looking for drug dealers and

It's an uneventful night until Nagy, patrolling the outskirts of the
Red Zone spots a vehicle, a car that has been involved in drug deals

Using their police radios and speaking on a frequency that can't be
scanned, the guys decide to follow the car. When it gets to the Wayne
Gretzky Parkway, the chatter on the radio becomes more excited.

"This could be the re-up, boys," an officer says.

Someone, they suspect, is heading out of town to replenish their
supply of cocaine.

The driver takes the Highway 403 exit off the Wayne Gretzky Parkway
heading towards Hamilton and puts the hammer down.

Reaching speeds of 130 and 140 km/h, it's a quick trip to Hamilton and
the driver takes the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.

Still travelling at a high speed, the driver leads police through the
city before finally coming to a stop in a quiet, suburban

The street looks quiet. Nothing much is going on. The only activity is
a man taking out his blue box.

Brantford police officers watch the house and park at a couple of
spots in the neighbourhood. If the car leaves, they want to be able to
follow it.

Someone leaves the suspect vehicle and goes to a house. The vehicle,
meanwhile, leaves the scene.

Sawkins, accompanied by an Expositor reporter, is "on the eye" - he
has the best view of the house and will be reporting any activity to
his colleagues.

An experienced officer with years of surveillance experience, Sawkins
has already taken a bathroom break. His guest, with no such
experience, has not.

They watch and looking out the backseat, passenger-side window, they
wait. And they wait some more, the pressure building on the reporter's
bladder ever so slowly.

They wait some more. Still nothing happens and the pressure is getting
stronger. Then, the silence is broken.

"You know," says Sawkins, "that if you have to go now, the only option
is an empty water bottle. You can't get out of the car. It'll blow our

Finally, blessedly, there is some activity at the house.

The suspect vehicle has returned and parks on the street close to a
police surveillance car.

Then, another vehicle comes down the street. It circles the block
before parking in the driveway of the house being watched by police. A
few minutes later, the suspect vehicle, the one police followed all
the way to the Hamilton area, is on the move again and so are the
officers. It's a slow, casual drive to Highway 403. Heading towards
Brantford now, the driver picks up speed and is again travelling at
140 km/h.

Some 30 minutes later, the driver is approaching Brantford and the
street crime guys are making plans. An officer calls Brantford police
dispatch and arranges for a uniformed officer in an unmarked vehicle
to stop the suspect car.

With the street crimes officers following, the vehicle takes the Wayne
Gretzky Parkway and turns left, heading into the city. A couple of
minutes later, the unmarked cruiser shows up, the police lights go on
and the officers pounce on the suspect vehicle.

Two women are pulled out and cuffed.

One of them gives up the stash right away and the street crimes guys
seize $2,800 worth of cocaine. They're thrilled with the catch.

"It's right off the brick," says Det. Const. Keith Tollar. Fresh
cocaine that won't be making it to the streets of Brantford.

In addition to the seizure, police arrest two people, both

The officers return to the barn and begin their paperwork. The
reporter heads to the washroom. "You mean, you held it all that time?"
the reporter is asked. "Wow."

A couple of hours later with the time approaching 3 a.m., the
paperwork is just about done and everyone is about ready to call it a

Police Foiled on Two Fronts This Evening

It's another beautiful fall evening and the street crime boys are
prowling the streets of Brantford.

On this night, they spend almost their entire shift in Eagle Place
watching who is going in and out of two homes. Both are suspected
crackhouses and police are building their case to make some busts.

But if the homes are suspected crack houses, why then, can't the
police go in and arrest people? It's a question the officers hear
quite often.

Police, they say, have to have grounds - good, solid reasons - for
barging into a home. Sometimes, establishing the grounds necessary to
bust into a home takes time and even when they believe they have the
goods on someone, they have to get a justice of the peace to approve a
search warrant. They're not always successful.

One night recently, police believed they had enough information to
support searching a Brantford home for an indoor marijuana grow-op.
They took their information, which included a tip from a reliable
source as well as information from Brantford Hydro, to a justice of
the peace.

The information from hydro shows the home's use of power is consistent
with that of a grow-op.

Still, the justice of the peace denied them their search warrant and
the officers are forced to do more work. But they're not about to give
up. They will, in time, gather more information and go back to a
justice of the peace again.

They need enough evidence and information to support a charge or
application for a search warrant and it's why they spend so much time
conducting surveillance and following up on tips.

The officers will spend hours gathering information, just like they
did while watching two Eagle Place homes.

They spend several hours in the area with a couple of officers
watching the homes, another making phone calls to sources and yet
another circling the neighbourhood. During that time, they see one
user act as a go between for two Eagle Place dealers. They also see
one user rip off another.

Later, they decide to arrange a buy.

It takes several phone calls, but, finally, the officer arranges to
purchase some cocaine. The runner, the person who will deliver the
cocaine to the officer, agrees to meet the officer at the corner of
Dalhousie and King Streets in 20 minutes.

Officers see the runner when she leaves the house and immediately
identify a problem. She's accompanied by a couple of other people.
There is another issue. Instead of completing the deal at the corner,
she wants to do it in a nearby apartment.

That won't work because it means the officer will be on his own, out
of sight of his colleagues. He will also be dealing with several
people, not one.

Still, the information they have gathered is filed away to be used in
the future. They will add those houses to their list as homes to watch.

Officers Arrange Deal, Make Arrest

One night later, a couple of the street crime guys head back to Eagle
Place while others go Red Zone and another checks out the north end.

They gather more information about some dealers in Eagle Place. Calls
are made to sources, phone calls come in to the officers about
potential deals and one of the officers tries to arrange a buy.

It doesn't work and the officers head to the north end to see if they
can arrange a buy from a dealer operating out of an apartment building.

They have seven tips about this dealer and the officers have been
watching this guy for a week or so. He has a history of dealing crack

Heading into a plaza parking lot, one of the officers uses a pay phone
to call the dealer's cellphone.

The officer gives the dealer a false name, a reference and asks if he
can get some "hard stuff."

Warily, the dealer tells the officer to call back in 15 (minutes). He
wants to check the officer's reference and it's possible the pay phone
number may have shown up on the dealer's caller identification.

If that's the case, the dealer may drive or walk by the phone booth to
see who has called.

Fifteen minutes later the officer calls back. The deal is on and they
are to meet behind a north end variety store in 15 minutes.

One officer runs behind the store and hides near a truck. Another
officer hides in the shadows. They watch the dealer walk out of the
apartment building towards the meeting place and when he enters a lit
area they jump out at him screaming: "Police, police."

He surrenders immediately and police seize a 60 of crack cocaine. It's
worth about $60.

The man is arrested and taken to the police station. But the street
crimes unit has more to do.

They know there are children in the apartment where the man was living
and they are obliged to check on their well-being.
They would also like to get any cocaine they believe may still be in
the apartment.

The officers knock on the apartment door, identify themselves and are
allowed in. They check on the kids and ask permission to search the

They tell the woman several times they aren't interested in arresting
her or getting her boyfriend in more trouble.

But they do want to get any remaining cocaine out of the

To do so, they need her permission.

The woman appears confused and is upset. She denies any knowledge of
cocaine and any deals. She says she doesn't know what to do.

They call a special phone number for her which will get her duty
counsel legal advice. She asks to call her mom while they wait for a
return call from duty counsel.

Eventually, a duty counsel calls back and the officers leave the
apartment while she speaks to a lawyer.

When they are allowed back in, she refuses them permission to search
and the officers leave.

Returning to the barn, they complete their paperwork and head home for
the night. They have two more days of chasing crackheads and robbers
before the weekend.

big-time dealer appears to put drugs in car's gas tank

Driving down the West Street hill heading towards the Red Zone, Det.
Const. Jason Saunders spots a person of interest going in the other

One of the city's big-time drug dealers is on the move and heading
towards the north end.

The street crime guys wonder what's up and they decide to follow him
and his cronies for a while.

The surveillance, which takes the officers through the north-end
retail section, doesn't generate any information of interest. There's
nothing out of the ordinary about his actions until he goes to a
commercial parking lot in the north end.

The man gets out of his vehicle, heads into a business and comes out.
He goes to another car.

No one from street crimes can tell for sure what he's doing, but it
appears that he's taking something out of one car and putting it into
the gas tank of his own vehicle.

Once the move is finished, the man returns to the business, comes out
a few minutes later and gets into his own vehicle.

He leads police to a downtown business and then heads to a Holmedale

It's difficult to say for sure what happened. But the street crime
guys say dealers often use vehicles as drug vaults - a place to store
cocaine and other illegal drugs to await pickup.

They believe the suspected dealer has just re-upped his supply of
cocaine and is taking it home to cook up some crack. They start
watching the house for a while. If he comes out in an hour or maybe 70
or 80 minutes later, it's possible the crack cocaine has been made and
he's about to make a delivery.

An hour and a half later, the man still hasn't left his residence and
the street crime guys go looking for other suspects.

It doesn't take long.

Another suspected drug dealer is on the move, but this one is
extremely "heat conscious," always on the lookout for cops.

On this night he leads police throughout the entire city. He makes a
couple of stops and it appears he's simply running errands.

However, he picks up someone, a woman, during his travels and drops
her off in the east end of Brantford.

It's thought that they completed a drug deal in the vehicle. But it's
hard to tell for sure and the street crimes guys figure they don't
have enough information to stop one of them and lay a charge. But they
have some identifications they may be able to use at some future date.

Police Make Smart Use of Code Words

Maxwell Smart may be long gone from the television screen, but he
lives on in the hearts anyone who has ever been an undercover police

The bumbling secret agent from the television show Get Smart was
famous for saying "sorry about that, chief," after a mishap.

He also had some pretty nifty gadgets including a phone in his shoe.
That phone made its way into a secret code that undercover officers
who specialize in surveillance use to communicate when following a bad

So, if a suspected drug dealer being followed by police goes into the
phone booth at the corner of King Street and Dalhousie Street for
example, police following him would say that "he's on the shoe" - that
is, he's on the phone.

Or, if an officer needs to make a phone call, he'll say "I'm going to
be on the shoe."

The code is a closely-guarded trade secret developed years ago - Get
Smart was on television between 1965 and 1970 - to prevent people with
police scanners from tracking police activity.

Even now, police don't much like to share it, but were willing to let
out a few terms for public consumption.

When following a suspect who is in the slow lane on, say Highway 403,
police will say the suspect is in the "turtle."

If the suspect changes lanes and moves into the fast lane, the officer
will say he's now in the "rabbit." 
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