HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html RCMP's New Team Will Tackle Grow Ops
Pubdate: Mon, 16 Aug 2004
Source: Coquitlam Now, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004Lower Mainland Publishing Group, Inc.
Author:  Ken Gracey
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


A Saturday afternoon with the MET isn't going to an enjoyable exercise in 
opera appreciation for dope growers in Coquitlam.

"We need to thank the municipalities for allotting the six positions for 
the team," says Cpl. Dan Pons of the Coquitlam RCMP, who will be heading up 
the detachment's new Marijuana Enforcement Team - MET.

Pons took over as head of the unit only a week ago, and already has 150 
complaint files ready for investigation.

The 23-year veteran of the force expects to have up to 400 files to deal 
with when MET is fully operational on Sept. 13.

The other team members will be three experienced officers and two newer 
members, ensuring there is always trained individuals available as people 
join and leave the team.

The work will be both bureaucratic and laborious, according to Pons, as the 
team will arrive at, take over and clean out grow operations after regular 
duty officers have been called to the scene.

The team will also do surveillance and work to get search warrants to break 
up cells or conglomerates that are working more than one house in the area. 
It will have flexible work hours in order to accommodate the numerous busts 
that take place at any given time, or any day of the week.

According to the figures Pons has, there is no sign grow ops are on the wane.

Since January 2004, the RCMP has taken down 44 operations in Coquitlam and 
16 in Port Coquitlam. In 2003, there were 351 complaints. So far this year, 
there has been 257 complaints that have been investigated.

For growers there is a real incentive, as each pot plant will bring in 
$1,000 every eight to 10 weeks. Rental houses Pons has busted average 20 
plants, which means $20,000 in a short timeframe. With that kind of money, 
there is a whole industry associated with grow ops, Pons says.

Usually one person is nominated to have the house in his or her name. Then, 
there is a person responsible for growing, clippers who come in and harvest 
the crop and transportation people who take it away. All of these people 
are paid an hourly wage, like any an employee of a normal business.

There are also sellers and bosses who distribute the final product.

What bothers Pons is the problems grow ops bring to neighbourhoods.

"There is an element of criminality here associated with these grows that 
puts the whole neighbourhood at risk," he said.

Police officers are seeing more houses with doors kicked in, as criminals 
seek to rip off grow ops. Often weapons are involved, and people sometimes 
enter the house of an innocent neighbour when they have the wrong information.

There are also health hazards that stem from the chemicals released into 
the air when grow operators vent the house.

With cities enforcing new bylaws that force landlords and owners to foot 
the bills for grow-op cleanups and the province moving to repossess 
properties from convicted operators, Pons feels some headway is being made. 
He hopes the MET will become proactive after it catches up on the routine 

"It seems like now every street you go down, you may smell something," he 
says. So now everybody realizes it's in our backyards and something should 
be done."

Signs that may indicate a grow op:

House occupants don't arrive home at a routine time.

People staying at the home keep very late hours.

  Only one person shows up to the house.

The house seems unoccupied a lot of the time.

Lots of banging is heard in the middle of the night.

Building supplies and not furniture are moved in.

People are carrying plastic bags in and out.

Odd smells come from the house at night.

The kids who "live" at the house don't go to school, or play outside.

If you have information about a grow op in your neighbourhood, call the 
Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
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