HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Dogs Hunt Drugs On Ferries
Pubdate: Thu, 01 Aug 2002
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 The Province
Author: John Bermingham, of The Province


While B.C. Ferries passengers took in the scenery on the upper decks, West 
Vancouver cops were sniffing around their cars below.

Police used drug-trained dogs to root out eight people with marijuana in 
their vehicles.

But a civil liberties watchdog is crying foul, saying police have no 
business snooping around on public ferries without a search warrant.

"Operation High Seas" netted seven kilograms of marijuana Tuesday and led 
to three arrests.

Plainclothes officers sealed off car decks on four return trips from 
Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo.

West Vancouver police Sgt. Bob Fontaine said the dog, which came from 
detachments around the Lower Mainland, detected the drugs from outside the 

Police then waited for the owners to return to their cars before making an 
arrest for possession of narcotics, searching the cars and seizing the drugs.

"Nobody even knew we were there," Fontaine said yesterday. "They're all 
upstairs, and we're down on the car decks. "It was the most non-invasive 
way of trying to detect any drugs on the ferry. I think you might see this 
will happen again in the future."

Fontaine said criminals are using B.C. Ferries to transport drugs through 
Horseshoe Bay.

He said there are numerous marijuana grow-ops on Vancouver Island, as well 
as some "off-loading" of drugs from ships on the west coast of the island.

A 43-year-old man and 30-year-old woman from Lasqueti Island are now facing 
drug trafficking charges, along with a 37-year-old man from Lantzville.

Police seized small amounts of marijuana from five other people, but didn't 
charge them.

Fontaine said police were not acting on a specific tip, but "have had 
information in the past that drugs have been transported on that ferry."

B.C. Ferries would not comment on why it is allowing police to search cars, 
except to say it was being co-operative.

John Dixon, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said police 
have invaded the privacy of passengers.

"They have no business trolling around prospectively on the ferries unless 
they have good and reasonable, probable grounds that a specific criminal 
offence is being committed.

"If you can't find anything else for police officers to do than ride around 
on the ferries, on the hope of busting somebody for having some dope in 
their car, then West Vancouver obviously needs fewer police officers," said 

Marijuana is often considered B.C.'s biggest cash crop.

A study commissioned by the RCMP and released last month found the number 
of B.C. grow-ops grew by 48 per cent per year from 1997 to 2000.

Solicitor-General Rich Coleman said at the time that police must have the 
resources they need to bust grow-ops.

"I don't want the province to become a haven for this type of activity," he 
said. "Frankly, I don't think we should be soft on drug."

Police have estimated there are as many as 15,000 grow-ops in the Lower 
Mainland alone.

The summer edition of High Times magazine named Vancouver as the world's 
best spot for marijuana smokers ahead of Amsterdam, where pot is legal.
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