HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cops Want Homes Seized
Pubdate: Sun, 13 Oct 2002
Source: Surrey Leader (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Surrey Leader
Author: Dan Ferguson


Police are asking the courts to seize newly-built houses used to hide 
illegal marijuana grow operations.

Applications have been filed under proceeds of crime laws in B.C. Supreme 
Court to have three recently constructed houses in Surrey and Langley 
seized and sold to assist law enforcement, Surrey RCMP Const. Tim Shields 
confirmed Friday.

The Surrey properties include a large house in the 17700 block of 100 Ave. 
valued at almost $485,000, another property on 74A Ave., as well as one 
house in Langley. All three houses have been ordered "restrained" by the 
courts, meaning they cannot be sold until their fate has been decided at trial.

It's the first time the proceeds of crime laws have been applied to houses, 
Shields said. Usually, the law is used on items such as cars, airplanes and 
other possessions where there is evidence the property was used 
"exclusively to sustain an ongoing criminal enterprise." No trial date for 
the Surrey cases has been set as yet.

Under current legislation, if the courts do rule the houses should be 
seized, the money from the sale will go to federal authorities, not local 
law enforcement, Shields pointed out.

"The City of Surrey is paying for 90 per cent of our policing; why should 
they not receive some cost recovery?"

As first reported by The Leader earlier this month, police are worried 
about a troubling trend whereby criminals are buying new houses outright 
rather than than renting older houses to conceal their pot growing.

So far this year, Surrey RCMP have executed 33 warrants at new houses, 15 
of them within a three-block area of 168 St. and 84 Ave.

"We're scratching the surface," Shields warned. "There are many, many, many 
more." Investigators say the new tactic aids concealment because most 
residents of new neighborhoods don't expect such activity.

One Surrey mother interviewed by The Leader said she had no idea the house 
next to hers was being used for pot growing until a police Emergency 
Response Team staged a raid one afternoon. Owners go to great pains to 
conceal such enterprises, even making periodic visits with their children, 
according to another resident, who said after one such house was raided, it 
was sold and the new owners reported there were no signs it had ever been 
used as a home.

"All the appliances, the stove, fridge, everything, were still wrapped in 
plastic," the source said. Most of the new home grow op activity is the 
work of "Asian organized crime," Shields said. Police have asked the 
Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association (GVHBA) for assistance in 
finding new homes being built for marijuana growing.

Often, growers are including suspicious features in their design requests, 
said Peter Simpson, the chief operating officer of the Surrey-based 
non-profit organization which represents the residential construction 
industry throughout the Greater Vancouver Area.

"High output electrical service in the basement and oversized exhaust fans 
in the roof ... these are things that are not illegal but might give cause 
for concern," he said.

That doesn't mean contractors will be rushing to police every time an owner 
requests out-of-the ordinary features, or that buyers should be timid about 
requesting such features, Simpson added. Surrey is hardly the only 
community to notice new houses being used to hide pot growing operations, 
Simpson added. "This has happened in British Properties (in West Vancouver) 
as well..."
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