HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html RCMP Bust 86-Year-Od For Pot Grow
Pubdate: Sun, 04 Aug 2002
Source: Salmon Arm Observer (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Salmon Arm Observer


It was a first for members of the Salmon Arm RCMP.

Police arrested 86-year-old Herman Nathe on charges of production of 
marijuana, firearms offences and theft of hydro in conjunction with a raid 
on a Raven-area home on July 11.

A large quantity of marijuana and hydroponic growing equipment was seized 
from Nathe's home at 1230-52nd Ave. NE.

In the heat of the summer afternoon, RCMP removed at least three large bags 
of marijuana plants.

The home, which is screened from the road by large trees and bushes, was 
also fenced off and neighbours report seeing up to three large German 
Shepherds on the property.

Nathe has been a longtime resident in the Raven home, with neighbours 
saying he has lived there over 20 years.

He is scheduled to make a first appearance in Salmon Arm Provincial Court 
on Sept. 24.

Provincial trend

Marijuana grow operations are in full bloom around the province, and the 
Shuswap is no exception.

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 recent study done for the RCMP by a university criminologist.

The report 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 investigations.

Plecas says police generally end up with drug charges as a result of 
responding to public complaints.

The study, funded by the `E' Division of the RCMP, which is responsible for 
all of B.C., had Plecas referring to B.C. as `Colombia North.'

He notes in B.C., 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.

Staff Sgt. Don Tonks of the Salmon Arm detachment says the situation in the 
Shuswap echoes that of the province.

`I don't think we are all that different from other areas of the province. 
I don't think any department has adequate resources to deal with this.'

The detachment is so overloaded with complaints about possible drug 
activity that they can not respond to them all.

`We have to respond on a priority basis. If they are not considered a top 
priority, some of the complaints sit shelved for a while until resources 
become available.'

Plecas' report backs up Tonk's observations. It notes that in 2000 the RCMP 
couldn't take action due to lack of resources in 23 per cent of cases.

Tonks says despite the difficulties in handling the volume of cases, it is 
important for the RCMP to continue their efforts. This is because grow 
operations are often linked to many other types of crime. For example, 
indoor grow operations usually involve the theft of hydro and damage to 
rental property. Drugs are often connected to other types of crime as well.

`The use of drugs extends into people getting involved in crime to fulfill 
their habit,' says Tonks.

The study found that in the majority of the 1997-2000 cases, suspects were 
Caucasian males in their mid-30s, with an average 13-year criminal history.

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