Pubdate: Thu, 08 Apr 2010
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2010 The London Free Press
Author: Randy Richmond


MARIJUANA: London police are on track to make a record number of pot
busts this year

London police are on a pace to bust a record number of marijuana
grow-ops in the city.

"If we stay on track, we will be well over 50 this year," said Det.
Supt Ken Heslop, head of the criminal investigation unit.

"The numbers are definitely increasing and they're becoming more

In 2008, London police busted 32 grow operations and seized pot worth
an estimated $9.255 million. Fifty people were arrested.

In 2009, they busted 42 grow-ops, and confiscated an estimated $15
million in pot. Seventy-one people were arrested.

So far this year, police have busted more than a dozen grow-ops,
although not all have been publicized yet.

An average grow-op, discreetly stashed away in an ordinary house, can
generate about $400,000 a year.

"It is a relatively easy way to make a lot of money," Heslop said. "I
don't think we're getting anywhere near 50% of it. There are a lot
more out there we're not getting."

So far this year, police have busted operations of as few as 19 plants
and as many as 1,390, in new suburban houses and in strip malls, some
with the traditional lights in the ceiling over hundreds of plants.
More rare are operations employing the grow wheel -- a giant,
rotisserie-like open barrel lined with baby plants that revolve around
a bright, cylinder-shaped light.

In a Free Press series starting Friday, police explain how the crooks
running grow-ops are getting better at blending into

"A lot of the telltale signs we used to tell people to look for are no
longer there," Heslop said.

Untrimmed lawns, tampered hydro meters outside, vacant rooms -- the
usual signs of grow-ops are becoming things of the past, he said.

Grow operators are learning to look more like ordinary

London police recognize the ambivalent attitude many Canadians have
toward marijuana use, he said.

But in this city, the large grow-ops -- those with about 400 plants or
more -- are exporting marijuana to the U.S.

Coming back are cocaine and guns, Heslop said.

"That is something people should think about." 
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