HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Five Drug Labs Busted In Raids
Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2002
Source: Brampton Guardian (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Brampton Guardian
Author: Pam Douglas


Operation Green Sweep Hits 160 Labs In Canada

Peel police officers raided five Brampton houses and five in Mississauga as 
part of a Canada-wide pot lab bust Wednesday. The early-morning raids 
netted more than $4 million worth of marijuana locally, or 3,765 plants. 
Six people were charged with 17 criminal offences. Equipment worth a total 
of $328,000 used to operate the labs was also seized.

Three children were found living in the drug houses in Peel, one as young 
as 3 years, according to police.

Across the country-- mainly in British Columbia and Ontario-- officers shut 
down 160 residential marijuana labs and seized $48.5 million worth of 
plants. In total, 136 people face 289 charges.

There are indications local drug lab operators are beginning to feel the 
heat of recent crackdowns. One of the 10 houses raided in Peel was in the 
process of being shut down and moved by its operators. Police found the lab 
equipment, but no plants. It appears the house was being operated by the 
same group running a house in another nearby city that had been raided by 
police earlier, according to drug officers.

Called Operation Green Sweep, the co-ordinated drug raids took a great deal 
of planning, but police said they are pleased with the results. They also 
said future country-wide raids are likely.

"We were already sharing information and sharing methods of attack and ways 
to deal with the problem," said Peel Acting Supt. John Nielson, officer in 
charge of Operations and Support Services.

Co-ordinated raids

The co-ordinated raids show how serious police departments are about 
eliminating the use of houses as mass-producing drug labs. They say the 
labs pose a serious threat to the safety of those living next door and on 
the same street.

Several house fires in Brampton and Mississauga have been linked to drug 
labs, where rewiring has been done to bypass the hydro box. Also, deadly 
levels of carbon monoxide were found inside one Brampton house recently, 
caused by the rerouting of the ventilation system inside the house to 
accommodate the lab.

Police say weapons are sometimes kept inside the houses to be used as 
protection against potential home invasion robberies. Earlier this year, a 
.22 calibre gun was seized from a lab operating in Peel.

Local police say they are receiving positive feedback from the 
neighbourhoods every time they dismantle one of the labs.

"We're still getting great co-operation from the public," Nielson said. 
"The community is ecstatic when they see us. They recognize the potential 
danger that comes when you have one of these in their community."

No neighourhood is exempt, Nielson said. Labs have been found in $100,000 
homes and million dollar homes.

Much of the marijuana is exported to the United States, police said.

The labs are being used as money-makers to fund other criminal activity. 
Asian gangs have been linked to the lab operations in British Columbia and 
Peel police say they are starting to find those arrested here have already 
been convicted in British Columbia for growing marijuana.

"We are also starting to run into people who we have previously charged 
here and are out on bail," Nielson said.

Police are continuing to warn the public about the dangers and are 
encouraging anyone who suspects a house may be operating as a drug lab to 
call them immediately.

"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," Nielson said. "We will investigate every complaint 
and prosecute all persons arrested, fully, in the judicial system."

Police are lobbying for stiffer penalties from the justice system. In the 
past, fines and conditional sentences were common. Nielson said lately 
there has been an indication the penalties are increasing. A case in 
Waterloo recently resulted in a one year jail sentence. Peel is currently 
going through a sentencing hearing in which the Crown attorney will be 
asking for "substantial" jail time.

The labs are capable of turning a $1 million profit every few months, so 
much more of a deterrent is needed, according to Nielson.

Peel police enlisted the help of the RCMP and OPP to shut down the local 
labs. Across Canada, 20 police departments participated in Operation Green 

In 2001, 152 houses in Brampton and Mississauga were raided, with the 
seizure of more than $53 million worth of marijuana plants. Peel police 
burned more than 5 1/2 tons of marijuana in 2001.

Peel police are offering a list of things residents can look for if they 
suspect a hydroponics lab is operating in their neighbourhood:

* no one ever appears to be home;

* residents come to the house for a few hours and then leave again;

* there is a strange odour coming from the house;

* the air conditioner never runs and windows are closed even in hot weather;

* the windows are boarded up or covered up;

* there are indications the ground has been dug up around the hydro box;

* a television or radio is left on all day and night;

* snow isn't shovelled or grass cut on a regular basis.

For homeowners who may be renting to a drug dealer, they should be 
suspicious if:

* tenants pay only in cash or offer more than you are asking;

* tenants discourage you from visiting the property;

* tenants won't provide references or a previous address.

If you suspect anything, call Peel Regional Police Morality Bureau at 
905-453-3311, ext. 7260, or Peel Crime Stoppers anonymously at 
1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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