HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Police Ask For Help In Fighting Grow Ops
Pubdate: Fri, 22 Oct 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Bruce Owen


Average citizens called best tool in 'community issue'

WINNIPEG police are asking for the public's help to stop the city from going
to pot. "This is not strictly a police matter," Sgt. Andy Golebioski said
yesterday. "It's a community issue."

In the most detailed presentation so far on the explosion of hydroponic
marijuana operations in Winnipeg, police said average citizens are their
best tool to shut grow operations.

Golebioski and Sgt. Danny Smyth said they get a tip a day from the public on
indoor residential grows.

"People are more aware of what's going on in their neighbourhoods," Smyth

Smyth also said the trend in the past year is that Asian-based organized
crime has the lion's share of marijuana grows in Winnipeg.

Outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels only account for one per cent
of what's grown while Asian groups, specifically Vietnamese, account for 45
per cent, he said.

Smyth said of the 87 grows shut down this year, those run by criminals with
a Vietnamese background -- from overseas or other parts of Canada -- are the
biggest, accounting for about 80 per cent or $18 million of the total $23
million value of marijuana seized.

"It's a commercial enterprise for them," Smyth said.

About 30 people have been charged so far in the Vietnamese-run grow
operations. Police believe they were recruited to come here, usually from
Eastern Canada, to set up grow operations or tend and harvest plants.

Police stress these people are in no way associated with the local
Vietnamese community, and call them a blemish on that community. They come
to the city simply to grow pot.

Smyth said they're connected to larger crime groups that operate in other
Canadian cities and in the United States. Their business is to grow as much
marijuana as they can and smuggle it to Eastern Canada or into the United
States. The Free Press reported earlier this year some of the suspects
arrested earlier this year had apparently been recruited in Europe and
arrived in Winnipeg only to be caught days or weeks later in marijuana grow
operations set up in residential homes.

Smyth said the problem is not unique to Winnipeg, but described it as being
like a franchise operation that is continually on the move from city to city
across Canada.

To date, police have shut down 87 grow operations in Winnipeg -- all in
residential homes scattered through the city. RCMP have also shut down
several grows in communities just outside the city.

Smyth said last year, police shout 108 operations and the year before, 82.

Smyth said some grow operations found by police are run by so-called
independents, people who may grow and sell marijuana for their own profit or
who are only growing a small amount for their personal use.

People can phone crime stopper at 786-TIPS (8477).


How to spot marijuana grow operations

How to recognize marijuana grow operations:

*Evidence of tampering with the hydro meter (damaged or broken seals) or the
ground around it.

*Homes made to look lived in by things like light timers, but very few
people coming in and out of the home.

*Late night or very short visits by people.

*Strange smells or overpowering smells of fabric softener. Noises such as
hammering or drilling into the basement foundation.

*People bringing unusual items into the house, such as bags of soil, lots of
plant roots, potting plants and growing equipment, like long plastic trays
or tubes.

*People continually bringing items and taking items away in garbage bags.

*Windows that are always covered.

*Residence or outbuilding has unusual amount of roof vents or exhaust fan

*Unusual amounts of steam coming from vents in the house in cold weather.

*No snow on the roof in winter.

*High condensation around windows.

*Little or no garbage being put out.

*People entering and exiting the residence only through the garage, keeping
the garage door closed.

*House rented under assumed names with payment made in cash.

- -- Winnipeg Police Service
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