Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jun 2007
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Now Newspaper
Author: Tom Zytaruk
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


The City of Surrey will look into hiring private security guards to 
protect firefighters and BC Hydro personnel during residential checks 
for marijuana grow-ops, rather than using RCMP escorts.

That's in response to a B.C. Supreme Court judge's order Tuesday 
requiring B.C. Hydro to reconnect the power to a South Surrey home - 
which authorities decided to inspect after noticing high electricity 
consumption at the residence - because police had escorted 
firefighters and an electrical inspector onto the property.

"I guess the ruling was that for the police to go on the property, 
they needed a warrant and for them to be on the property without a 
warrant, it was an illegal search," noted John Sherstone, manager of 
Surrey's bylaws and licensing services.

"It was a challenge on the City of Surrey's electrical disconnect."

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis said Surrey's Electrical Fire Safety 
Initiative (EFSI) team, comprised of firefighters, police and 
electrical inspectors, has completed more than 500 household 
inspections since March 2005, finding 88 per cent of those houses 
inspected required major electrical repairs.

EFSI's mandate is to reduce fires and other safety hazards caused by 
marijuana grow-ops, which typically draw serious electricity and have 
dangerous wiring schemes.

Despite Tuesday's ruling, Garis sees no setback to the program.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is considering creative alternatives.

"We only use police for safety issues," she said. "If they don't like 
the fact that it's the police that are working with our firefighters, 
then that's fine; we'll have somebody else.

"But at the end of the day we want to make sure our firefighters are 
protected and are safe and that whole team of B.C. Hydro personnel as 
well, their safety is first and foremost. That's the reason why we 
had the police there, and the only reason. The police aren't there to 
lay charges; the police aren't there to execute warrants. We're there 
because it's a fire safety issue."

If not the police, then who else? "I don't know," Watts replied. 
"Maybe we need to have a look at private security, I'm not sure. 
That's something we're going to have a look into."

As for the possibility of not having police escorts during 
inspections, Garis said, "We're going to have to wrestle with that notion."

Meantime, it remains to be seen whether city hall will challenge the 
judge's ruling.

"I don't think that decision's been made yet," Dave Bennett, Surrey's 
assistant city solicitor, said at press time.
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