HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Firefighters Will Sniff Out Pot Operations
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Nov 2004
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 The Province
Author: Lena Sin, The Province


City Getting 'Innovative' In Grow-Op Fight

Forget the police. The new frontier of pot busting in Abbotsford comes
in the form of firefighters, building inspectors and bylaw officers.

With an estimated 700 grow-ops in residential neighbourhoods and an
overwhelmed police force, the city has decided it's time to get
innovative with their crime-fighting strategies, said Coun. Bruce
Beck, a member of the city's grow-op task force.

In a proposed 90-day pilot project, the task force wants to test out
the effectiveness of using firefighters, thermal imaging techniques
and tips from the public to identify grow-ops.

Unlike police, firefighters can circumvent the requirement of having
to obtain a search warrant from the courts to enter homes, so long as
they deem there's a reasonable risk to the public.

If a grow-op is suspected, one firefighter will enter the home with a
building inspector and a bylaw officer to do an inspection. Once a
grow-op is established, police will be alerted and water will be cut
off from the home after a 24-hour notice.

"By turning off the water, the home can't be occupied without an
occupancy permit," said Beck.

Although no other city in B.C. has such a program in place yet, Beck
is confident there will be no legal challenges. He argues that since
the police are not formally involved, firefighters and city employees
would not be considered as acting as an agent for Abbotsford police.

"We have a rapidly growing population base, a proximity to a large
metropolitan area, yes, crime is an issue of great concern to us,"
said Beck. "We haven't come up with all the answers yet, but we're
trying to be innovative."

The idea behind the pilot project is that it will not only target
grow-ops, but also help alleviate the workload for police, who are
struggling to keep up with rising crime rates.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek