HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cops Calling Homegrown Marijuana 'Epidemic'
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2002
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Guelph Mercury Newspapers Limited
Author: Andrew Bruce


On The Heels Of Widespread Raids, Police Say There Are So Many Grow 
Operations They Can't Keep Up

GUELPH - Fresh from local and national raids that brought in a massive haul 
of marijuana Tuesday, police say home growing operations are becoming an 
"epidemic" in Ontario.

"It was a provincewide sweep to make the public see we have an epidemic 
problem," said Det. J.D. Lapell, a Wellington County OPP drug officer.

Marijuana-growing operations in British Columbia are a major problem and 
police say similar ones are moving into Ontario.

"We're just seeing a foothold in Ontario," said Lapell. "One in eight 
homicides (in B.C.) is related to growing operations. We don't want that in 

Wellington County OPP and Guelph Police raided four houses and one 
apartment Wednesday, confiscating $1.2 to $1.5 million worth of marijuana 
and more than $100,000 in growing equipment at three houses.

Three people were arrested and police are looking for a fourth.

Electrical meters in the houses were bypassed with illegal hookups to power 

The search warrants were executed as part of a cross-country push dubbed 
"Project Green Sweep." There were 160 raids involving 500 officers.

Police say there are so many grow operations they can't keep up.

"We could go night and day doing this. The problem is I don't have the 
manpower," said Sgt. Brian Larkin, who heads up the Guelph Police drug and 
intelligence units.

Hundreds of hours go into a search and seizure, Larkin said, and the Guelph 
drug and intelligence units have just six officers who must set "priorities."

Last year, Guelph Police uncovered 11 home growing operations, four of them 
with hydro bypasses, and there are likely many more.

"Let's put it this way, we could do one a week," said Larkin.

Marijuana-related crimes tend to be handled less sternly by the courts than 
crimes involving other drugs, but home growing operations have to be taken 
more seriously, said Lapell.

They are a major fire hazard, police warn. Often no one lives at the homes 
and a fire, caused by shoddy bypass connections or heat lamps, could get 
out of hand before anyone spots it.

Dangerous fertilizing chemicals are used in these operations as well, 
potentially adding to loss of life or property, police said.

Also, to guard their operations against other criminals, growers will 
sometimes set booby traps, officers warn.

Growers often work in cells or networks. One local grow operation raided 
Wednesday, on County Road 124 just outside the southern boundary of Guelph, 
is linked to the operation on Fife Road, while a house near Ariss is 
connected to operations elsewhere, said Lapell.

Except for the bathroom and kitchen, every room in the Fife Road home was 
filled with marijuana at various stages of growth, police said.

There were about 800 plants in the house, where curtains and blinds masked 
plywood and steel bars covering the windows.

Hung Manh Nguyen, 52, the owner of the Fife Road home -- where an estimated 
$800,000 in marijuana was confiscated -- was let out of jail Thursday on 
$30,000 bail.

He faces charges including possession of controlled substances for the 
purposes of trafficking, cultivation of a controlled substance and theft of 

Van Luyen Tran, 35, who lived in a Westwood Road apartment searched by OPP 
and Guelph Police Wednesday, remains in jail on charges of unlawful drug 
production, possession for the purpose of trafficking and theft of electricity.

He is the "caretaker" of the County Road 124 growing operation, police allege.

A 30-year-old Guelph man connected to a Dunhill Crescent home that was also 
searched Wednesday was released after being charged with theft of 
electricity. His name was not released.

OPP have issued an arrest warrant for a man in connection with a grow 
operation in a Ariss-area home raided by police Wednesday. They did not 
release his name.
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