HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 'Green Sweep' Snares Three Oakville Grow Houses
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2002
Source: Oakville Beaver (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002, Oakville Beaver
Author: Howard Mozel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


While Wednesday's "Operation Green Sweep" closed down more than 100 
hydroponic marijuana grow operations across Canada, the initiative also 
underscored the very real dangers these sites pose to the public and 
emergency personnel alike.

In Halton, four houses were raided - three in Oakville, one in Burlington - 
netting 2,004 plants worth approximately $2 million and $160,000 of related 
equipment. At press time, two people had been arrested in connection with 
the Halton raids.

In all four cases the hydro meter was bypassed and some of these 
jury-rigged hookups, said Det. Sgt. Peter Hodgson, were "significantly 

Not only do these operations create a risk of fire, explained Oakville 
Deputy Fire Chief John deHooge, they also compound the dangers faced by 
firefighters, who would respond only to face a situation far more hazardous 
than that offered by a normal house.

Because of the radical alterations done to these buildings in order to 
steal electricity and vent tell-tale fumes, the structural integrity can be 
so compromised that deHooge said fire crews can encounter unstable walls, 
higher temperatures, electrocution and - in some cases - even booby traps.

"Fire services already have enough on their plates," said Oakville Mayor 
Ann Mulvale.

The theft of hydro is estimated at $15,000 for each operation, which 
generally uses enough electricity for 20 houses.

In Ontario alone, said Halton Regional Police Chief Ean Algar, these 
hydroponic sites also funnel $1 billion of "dirty money" into organized 
criminal activity that in turn "breeds greed and violence." The purchase of 
drugs also leads to other crimes, he said, that put the entire community at 

"These grow operations are not victimless crimes," said Algar at 
Wednesday's press conference at the Oakville Fire Department's Training 
Campus for Emergency Excellence. "These types of operations are plaguing 
our community."

They also show no sign of decreasing. According to Algar, police did not 
uncover any hydroponic operations in Halton in 2000, but the following year 
they raided 18. So far this year police have closed down five more with a 
staggering 30 more outstanding cases waiting for officers to investigate, 
said Algar.

Even those people living in the houses are at risk from vapours from a 
variety of chemicals employed in the growing of marijuana and in some 
cases, children live day in and day out breathing these fumes.

The latest response to this threat was Operation Green Sweep, a 
co-ordinated series of raids from coast to coast by what Hodgson called a 
"strategic alliance" of emergency personnel and utilities. In Halton, 49 
officers, including several from the OPP, were involved. Together with area 
fire departments and utility companies, houses at 2172 Grosvenor Drive, 
1705 Heritage Way and 1114 Valleybrook Drive (addresses were supplied by 
police to prevent confusion) in Oakville were raided. In Burlington, they 
hit a house at 917 North Shore Boulevard West. All the homes were rentals.

Out of the four warrants executed in Halton, two Oakville residents were 
arrested: Luan Van Phung, 51, of Heritage Way, and Khai Cong Le, 18, of 
Valleybrook Drive, are charged with producing a controlled substance, 
possession for the purpose of trafficking, theft of electricity and 
"occupant injuring building."

Hodgson - who explained more arrests are likely - said that to his 
knowledge these operations do not represent the work of organized crime, 
but rather organized criminal activity. Algar explained that before any 
labels are attached to those responsible, more investigation is necessary 
to make a clear determination.

"Certainly there is an organized group involved," he said.

After touring one of the grow houses, Wednesday morning, Halton Regional 
Chair Joyce Savoline referred to the widespread problem as a "blight" and a 
"cancer on the community." She was also astounded by the amount of 
re-wiring done and the damage inflicted on the interior.

"You just felt the whole unsafety of the place when you're inside," she said.

To help discourage such operations, Algar is asking the public to be more 
aware of what goes on in their neighbourhoods.

"Be the eyes and ears of police in the community," he said. "We can't do 
this without the community."
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