HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Huge Pot Raids Net $50m
Pubdate: Thu, 31 Jan 2002
Source: Kitchener-Waterloo Record (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Authors: Liz Monteiro And Cherri Greeno, Record Staff


Region, Guelph Homes Hit As Cross-canada Sweep Results In 289 Drug Charges

Six homes in Waterloo Region were raided by police yesterday as part of a 
nationwide bust of indoor marijuana operations. In the early-morning raids, 
police executed warrants on four homes in Cambridge and two in Kitchener, 
plus five in Guelph and surrounding areas.

Nationally, more than 500 officers busted 160 homes, seizing $50 million 
worth of marijuana. In Ontario, police raided homes in more than 20 
communities from Windsor to Ottawa, after a two-month investigation dubbed 
Green Sweep.

"These are people that have no boundaries. They grow dope wherever their 
network will take them,'' said Staff Sgt. Ray Massicotte of the Waterloo 
regional police drug squad.

He said many of the busts across Ontario are interconnected, with some 
farmers moving to other cities to grow dope. Police say those growing pot 
work in organized crime cells throughout the province and across Canada.

"It's is a very well organized and pervasive thing in our community," 
Waterloo regional police Chief Larry Gravill said.

In yesterday's local raids, about 2,000 marijuana plants valued at more 
than $2 million were seized in the region alone.

Across Canada, police from city, regional, provincial and federal forces 
swept down on home-grow operations from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. 
"Police executed 149 search warrants across Canada by 3:30 p.m. (ET),'' 
said Det. Mike Klimm, spokesman for police in Ontario's York Region.

"We've made 136 arrests and laid 289 charges. A total of 46,796 plants were 
seized in the raids.''

About 500 officers from more than 20 agencies were involved in the raids. 
In addition to the marijuana plants, police seized growing equipment worth 
about $3.2 million, Klimm said.

"There was no violence at all but some weapons were seized,'' he said.

Police were to conduct additional raids in Quebec and British Columbia last 
night, Klimm said.

Police consider the home-grow operations particularly dangerous because the 
growers often bypass electricity meters.

Klimm said 90 of the operations raided yesterday involved hydro bypasses.

There have been several home fires caused by faulty wiring used to power 
the grow lamps.

"About eight per cent of bypass operations end up having a fire,'' Klimm said.

The electricity from the bypass, which doesn't go through fuses or circuit 
breakers, poses a danger to emergency personnel responding to the fire.

"A typical grow operation consumes about $1,500 worth of electricity in a 
month,'' Klimm said.

Another danger is altered ventilation to remove fumes and humidity from the 
house, said Supt. John Nielson, a spokesman for Peel Region police.

This can lead to a build-up of dangerous carbon monoxide inside the 
residence, Nielson said.

"The purpose of this operation is to educate the public and make them aware 
of the dangers facing the general public and emergency personnel responding 
to these residences,'' he said.

Waterloo regional police Insp. Matt Torigian said officers are working 
together "to send a message to the bad guy and to our judicial partners 
that police are co-ordinating efforts across the country to eradicate this 

In the region, four people, two males and two females, have been charged 
with possession of marijuana, production of the drug and theft of hydro. 
They are expected to appear in bail court today.

Family and Children's Services took four children, ranging in age from two 
to six, from one home in Kitchener and one in Cambridge.

Like every bust before, yesterday's pot gardens were sophisticated dope 
farms using elaborate equipment and thousands of dollars of stolen 
electricity. About $90,000 worth of equipment and $1,800 in cash was seized.

Yesterday's raids bring the total number of houses busted locally to 76 
since June 2000.

More than 60 local police officers were involved in the busts, all wearing 
full-length disposable suits and goggles to protect themselves from the 
fumes in the homes.

At each of the six houses, police collected grow equipment such as floor 
fans, high-wattage light bulbs, umbrella-shaped reflectors and mounds of 


Two officers holding semi-automatic assault rifles near their chests stood 

In one house on Memory Lane in the Silverheights area of Cambridge, 
firefighters went inside ahead of police when it was discovered that carbon 
dioxide levels were high.

Neighbours across the region are frustrated and upset by the grow houses in 
their communities.

In December 2000, a house on Scott Road, across from Silverheights Public 
School, went up in flames.

"We are more observant than people in other neighbourhoods where this 
hasn't happened,'' said Karen Shatford, a mother of three who lives just a 
few houses away from the Memory Lane home.

For the past two months, residents in the area have been suspicious. They 
didn't see garbage left at the curb each week, the window blinds were 
always closed and the lights were rarely turned on at night.

"This is crazy. It's just wild how people are getting away with this,'' 
said Al Russell, 36, who has lived on Memory Lane for 10 years.

"There are people like me who work so they can afford the mortgage and then 
there are people growing dope and paying the mortgage,'' he said.

Russell said the courts need to give out "more than just a slap on the 
wrist" to those found guilty of growing pot.

In Kitchener, residents of Wedgewood Drive in the Stanley Park area said 
the men they saw coming in and out of the house didn't speak much and 
weren't very friendly.

Chad Schlei said he wasn't shocked that the home was raided for drugs.

"I suspected it because you never saw them at home. They would show up at 
night and leave at night."

Both Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig and Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr say they are 
concerned not only with the illegal issues of growing marijuana and 
stealing hydro, but with safety issues such as fire hazards.

Craig added he's "optimistic we are sending a very strong message and that 
we'll see an eventual end to this."

Zehr said the justice system has to be tough on those found guilty.

"It is important . . . the penalty is such that it becomes a deterrent," he 
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