HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Powerless To Stop B.C. Marijuana Boom, Study Says
Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jun 2002
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Vancouver Sun
Authors: Jake Kennedy, Camille Bains


B.C.'s illicit marijuana-growing operations jumped 222 per cent between 
1997 and 2000, and police are virtually powerless to halt the growth, says 
a study done for the RCMP by a university criminologist.

The report being released today by Darryl Plecas, a criminologist at the 
University College of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, shows that police only 
catch about five per cent of growing operations through their own 

"In most cases, it's not that these grow-ops are found as part of a police 
investigation. Usually, it's just police responding to public complaints," 
Plecas said in an interview Wednesday.

The study, funded by the "E" Division of the RCMP, which is responsible for 
all of B.C., showed "We're Colombia North," said Plecas.

"We have three times the national average [of grow-ops] and seven times the 
national average," Plecas said. "I'm shocked by the sheer volume of 
operations. The volume is so great, it's extremely difficult for police to 
keep up."

The study reviewed almost 12,000 cases of alleged marijuana cultivation 
investigated by police in every B.C. RCMP detachment and municipal police 
force between 1997 and 2000.

During that time, police seized 1.2 million plants and 8,646 kilograms of 
harvested marijuana, with an estimated value of between $462 million and 
$1.25 billion, the study said.

"The growth has been so great, so fast, that they've been unable to respond 
to the extent that they might have liked to," Plecas said.

"In 2000, there were 23 per cent of cases that they couldn't take action 
on; they just couldn't get to them," he said, adding police lack the 
resources to stem the increase in growing operations producing high-grade 
B.C. bud that's exported worldwide.

The majority of cases police investigated came to light after anonymous 
tips from neighbours or landlords or when police happened to find a grow-op 
while serving a warrant, for example, Plecas said.

The fact that only five per cent of grow-op investigations resulted from 
proactive police work is "important for people to know because it says that 
police aren't going out of their way to get these," he said.

"All they're doing is trying to handle the volume that's been given to them 
and clearly it's reached the point where it looks like they're losing it, 
that they're not able to handle it."

RCMP spokeswoman Constable Danielle Efford said the study confirmed the 
belief among police agencies that the number of B.C. growing operations has 
increased substantially in the past few years.

"I'm not going to say that there are not enough cops or there are enough. 
What we're going to have to do is analyse this report ... and reassess what 
we're doing," she said.

"We target the organized crime groups that are heavily involved and will 
continue to target these groups, these major players that are at the top."

In the majority of the 1997-2000 cases, suspects were Caucasian males in 
their mid-30s, with an average 13-year criminal history, Plecas said.

Fifty-three per cent of people caught running grow-ops also have prior drug 
convictions, he said, and 39 per cent have prior convictions for violent 

There was also an almost 20-fold increase in the number of Vietnamese 
suspects involved in illegal growing operations in the Greater Vancouver 
area, he said.

Plecas said he didn't know why, but twice as many Vietnamese growing 
operation suspects came to B.C. from Ontario compared with their Caucasian 

Criminal organizations in general have been moving their marijuana growing 
operations to B.C. from other provinces or from neighbouring states.

"There is concern about how the huge profits realized by the marijuana 
growing operations can be used by organized criminal elements to finance 
other activities or to illegally control other markets or parts of the 
local economy," says the report.

"People have a concept that these are ma and pa operations," Plecas said. 
"They're anything but."

Plecas said there are few consequences for those whose grow-ops are busted 
because sentences are not severe enough or, in many cases, charges are 
dropped because they take so long to get to court.

Police must consider a more strategic approach to dealing with the problem 
instead of concentrating on the impact of other drugs such as cocaine, 
Plecas said.

"When marijuana becomes a commodity to purchase cocaine then you would 
think there's a reason to take another view of it."

Increasingly higher yields of B.C. bud, helped by sophisticated technology 
such as special timers and automatic watering and plant feeding systems, 
also pose a threat of violence in neighbourhoods where the problem is 
becoming endemic, the study says.

Plecas also noted there were 508 ads for hydroponic equipment in the 
2000-2001 Yellow Pages in B.C. -- "50 times as many as Washington state and 
30 times as many as Alberta."

Most of the illegal operations are in private homes, where the risk of 
fires created by modified electrical equipment is also high, Plecas said.

In Delta, which experienced a 1,293 per cent jump in the number of growing 
operations from 1997 to 2000, Chief Constable Jim Cessford said police have 
held community meetings to educate people on how to spot homes that may 
include grow-ops to try to control the problem.
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