Pubdate: Fri, 30 Mar 2007
Source: Stoney Creek News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 Brabant Newspapers
Author: Laura Lennie
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Stoney Creek crime manager Sgt. Duncan McCulloch says a partnership
between the community and Hamilton Police were key in the biggest
marijuana grow-op bust in Hamilton history.

After community members came forward about the possibility of
marijuana grow operations about a month ago, police found 11,838
plants worth about $11.8 million in 49 units in three of the Riverdale
neighbourhood's high-rise apartment buildings - 11 Grandville Ave., 50
Violet Dr. and 77 Delawana Dr. - owned by Di Cenzo Management Inc.,
last week.

Though 11 Grandville Ave. was the first of the three buildings in
which police seized a large quantity of marijuana and has a history of
criminal activity, Mr. McCulloch says it has been successful in
combating such activity.

"The building and the whole neighbourhood was cleaned up as a result
of former superintendents Heather and Ed Ambo, who took over the
building in August 2005," he said. "The Ambos and their efforts were
phenomenal, but they left the building in January 2006 and I don't
think we had the same eyes and ears on the ground that we did have
with the Ambos, when the changed occurred."

But he says police still had contacts within the neighbourhood.

"People need to appreciate that this was a complex, sophisticated grow
operation - covertly set up and run very well," he said. "It's not
like it was self-evident to everybody walking around that this was

Mr. McCulloch also referred to comments made by Di Cenzo Management
Inc. vice-president Anthony Di Cenzo, in which he said the units where
the plants were found had been rented to 48 (now 49) different people.
McCulloch cites this as another factor to consider regarding why red
flags may not have been raised sooner.

"At the time when they thought there were only 48, there were 48
separate applications, 48 different tenants; it wasn't like there was
one person's name being multiply used," said Mr. McCulloch. "There
were 48 and now 49, different identities all established.

"These people generally didn't cause problems to other tenants in the
area; people weren't aware that they were there."

Despite this latest setback, Mr. McCulloch, who monitors the
neighbourhood regularly, says a great improvement has occurred, as
crime rates are still down.

"The calls for service, the needs the people have are down,
historically, compared to before the Ambos were there," he said.
"There has not been an increase in that area; it is not a problem
area, be it calls for service or crime rates."

For now, Mr. McCulloch says police will work with Di Cenzo Management
Inc. and other property owners in the area to see what steps can be
taken to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"We'll be looking at what loopholes this criminal organization was
able to use in order to set this up," he said.

The police will also talk to other property managers in the area to
see if there were common links and make sure grow operations are not
operating anywhere else.

Mr. McCulloch credits the tenants who came forward.

"This is a substantial organization that took a major hit, a criminal
organization that took a financial loss that I don't think they've
experienced before - certainly not in Hamilton. So there's some
concern from residents about that, but I don't know that individually
anybody would be targeted or should feel vulnerable as a result of
that," he said.

Mr. McCulloch says this is a good news story because it was community
members who came forward.

"I think unfortunately, for whatever reason, that wasn't the story
that got picked up, but it was great news," he said.

Hamilton, he says, has a new way of policing.

"We are based in the community. This is the biggest bust in Hamilton's
history and it came forward not from what would be traditional drug
investigation," he said.

"People living here felt they could talk to us about what their
suspicions were and even when they feared what some of the
repercussions might be, they told us about it, they still came forward."
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