Pubdate: Wed, 26 Sep 2012
Source: Chatham Daily News, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2012 Chatham Daily News
Author: Vicki Gough


Fertile soil and favourable weather conditions have produced bumper 
field crops across Chatham-Kent this fall.

Farmers may be happy, but not necessarily local law enforcement.

The combination of favourable growing conditions also produces 
abundant marijuana plants, shielded by corn in area fields.

And keeping up with the pot growers got a lot harder this year, 
according to Chatham-Kent police intelligence unit member Const. Neal Iles.

Municipal police didn't get to utilize the RCMP helicopter as they 
have in the past.

"The last couple of years we had assistance from the RCMP helicopter 
. but this year we didn't have those resources," Iles said.

Police have managed to eradicate 365 pot plants from 20 locations 
across Chatham-Kent since August, but it's a far cry from the nearly 
3,000 marijuana plants culled from area plots during the same time last year.

Members of the intelligence unit have been relying strictly on 
information from confidential informants and private pilots who pass 
on sightings of marijuana growing among other crops.

"We set aside days and collect information and then go out and pull 
the plants from the cornfield," Iles said.

Local authorities couldn't say why the federal police agency didn't 
offer its resources and calls to the RCMP in Toronto weren't returned 
as of press time.

"The helicopter was nice, because they would circle a field and 
direct us in with radios," Iles said.

Iles said officers have barely made a dent in the local drug crop.

"We know there is a ton more, but it's a matter of us getting the 
information and being able to act on it," Iles said.

Typically, cornfields are chosen because it's easier to hide in the 
tallest crop, Iles said.

"We've had fields that have had one single plant in it and then we've 
had other fields that have had 20 or 30 (plants) spread out through 
the field," he said.

Police focus on eradication - not on laying charges.

"These people usually go into the field at night without the farmer 
knowing and plant it (marijuana) without their knowledge," Iles said.

The plants pulled out this year have ranged in height from three to 
eight feet tall.

The seized plants are destroyed, police said.

"People argue police are wasting their time, but it's still illegal 
and until the government changes the laws we're still going to do 
what we do," Iles said.

Iles expects to go out in search of contraband crop at least one more 
time this season.

Police estimate one mature marijuana plant is worth $1,000 on the street.
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