HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Powerful Drive To Uncover Pot Grow Ops
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Feb 2008
Source: Comox Valley Echo (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Comox Valley Echo
Contact:  http://www.canada.com/vancouverisland/comoxvalleyecho/index.html
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/785
Author: Philip Round
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mjcn.htm (Cannabis - Canada)

POWERFUL DRIVE TO UNCOVER POT GROW OPS

B.C. Hydro Sharing Electricity Use Details With City And RCMP

High Hydro readings are helping pinpoint properties in Courtenay 
where illegal grow-op activity could be taking place.

The electricity stats are powering a drive to track down indoor 
marijuana operations and arrest operators.

The City of Courtenay has teamed up with the RCMP and B.C. Hydro for 
the new program, which has already delivered startling results in 
Coquitlam and Surrey on the Lower Mainland.

Hydro is now supplying Courtenay city staff with electrical 
consumption records following a change in provincial regulations 
allowing the previously-private information to be shared.

Such details can provide crucial clues to locating indoor grow-ops, 
because very large amounts of light and warmth are needed to 
encourage plant growth.

Courtenay's director of regulatory and property services, Dave 
Slobodan, already has details of about 100 local properties where 
meter readings appear to be way above the expected levels.

More consumption figures will be supplied on a regular basis to keep 
on top of the issue, he confirmed.

He stressed the readings came from properties with very high use 
compared to the norm - not simply places where a thermostat might be 
set a few degrees higher than usual.

He and his staff are now systematically going through the first list, 
removing those addresses where they know there's a sound reason for 
high energy use.

For example, a house might be known to have a swimming pool or hot 
tub, or maybe there is a machine shop in an outbuilding, or perhaps 
the owner has been engaged in a lot of construction or renovations 
drawing on power.

Such legitimate issues are often known to council staff through 
building records or simply local knowledge.

But where a good reason for high electricity use is not obvious, city 
staff liaise with the RCMP and formal notice can be given that an 
inspection is to be carried out.

This may show that the use is perfectly legitimate and that is the 
end of the matter.

But the first direct 'hit' of a grow-op under the new initiative was 
scored when inspectors discovered 450 marijuana plants being grown in 
a house on Woods Avenue, Courtenay. A man has been arrested and charged.

But where a good reason for high electricity use is not obvious, city 
staff liaise with the RCMP and formal notice can be given that an 
inspection is to be carried out.

This may show that the use is perfectly legitimate and that is the 
end of the matter.

But the first direct 'hit' of a grow-op under the new initiative was 
scored when inspectors discovered 450 marijuana plants being grown in 
a house on Woods Avenue, Courtenay. A man has been arrested and charged.

Several more properties are yet to be investigated, and Slobodan 
hopes that as well as helping bust existing operations, the ongoing 
supply of power consumption data should be a deterrent to new 
grow-ops in the city.

The most senior police officer in the Comox Valley, RCMP Inspector 
Tom Gray, said the initiative was "a very useful tool that really 
puts people on notice regarding electrical use."

Tracking high energy consumption is only one piece of a puzzle that 
can help build a clear picture of potential illegal activity, he 
added, but it is an important new element in the fight against crime.

Since a similar drive was launched in Coquitlam, more than 60 
grow-ops have been busted, while the City of Surrey claims a 
two-thirds drop in the number of indoor marijuana operations in its area.

According to B.C. Hydro, at any given time there are about 18,000 
homes in B.C. that use suspiciously large amounts if power. While 
this is barely one per cent of all properties in the province, the 
proportion is about three times as high as the Canadian average.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom