HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Team Shuts Down 200 Pot Farms
Pubdate: Fri, 18 Apr 2008
Source: Langley Advance (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc.
Author: Matthew Claxton


The municipal team does not arrest growers, but forces them to move

Langley's Safety Inspection Team has been moving at a faster pace than
anyone expected in the past year.

On Tuesday, Township Mayor Kurt Alberts told the Chamber of Commerce
that the teams have shut down 217 marijuana grow operations.

"That's three to five per week," Alberts said.

In fact, by later in the week the number had already

The Inspection Team started as a six-month pilot project, but has
proved so successful that it has been expanded into a full time operation.

The project began when the province allowed BC Hydro to release
electricity consumption data from homes and other properties to
municipal governments.

Because high power consumption is sometimes an indicator of a
marijuana grow operation, it enables local governments to pinpoint and
shut them down.

The team is composed of firefighters, Township bylaw officers, RCMP
members, and building and electrical inspectors.

The list handed over by BC Hydro includes every home in the Township
that uses more than 93 kilowatt hours per day of power, said Rob
Clausen, an assistant Township fire chief and one of the main
overseers of the inspection team.

A typical house uses between 31 and 38 kilowatt hours per day, Clausen

The list is whittled down by the team over the next few days and

Some houses are eliminated because they show power consumption
patterns that make sense, Clausen said.

A poorly insulated house, heated electrically, may use huge amounts of
power in the winter but drop down to normal in the summer.

Other homes are eliminated because cross checks show they have home
based businesses that are using the power.

Very large houses are often dropped from the list, as their size means
they use more electricity.

Half of all the homes on the list are eliminated out of hand, Clausen

Then the teams send members out to do a "drive by" of the

This drops more homes off the list. More home business or other power
drains are often obvious. Other homes seem to be obvious grow ops,
with the blinds drawn and moisture on the windows.

The next step is speaking to the owner. Team members ask if they can
look around for electrical problems. A fair number of owners allow the
teams in, and nothing is amiss, Clausen said.

There have been some unusual causes for the increased power use,
including a running printing press. Clausen also mentioned one home
where the owner had hooked up numerous electrical ATVs to home
current, and extension cords were running everywhere.

The rest of the occupants refuse an immediate walkthrough.

The teams then serve notice that they will return in 24 hours, under
the authority of the Safety Standards Act.

Usually they find a hastily abandoned grow operation, said Clausen.
The signs are there, however.

"In 24 hours, they can't hide everything," he said. In one case, a
ventilation shaft that was against the building code was concealed
behind a poster stuck to a wall.

Sometimes, including once this week, they find a house still full of
pot plants. Then the RCMP are called into dispose of the drugs.

If there is evidence of a grow op, the owner is facing a hefty bill.
First, they are billed for the cost of the thorough safety inspection
the house will get by building and electrical inspectors.

Then they must bring everything in the home up to code before it can
be occupied again.

Those fines mean the team pays for itself, noted Alberts.

So far, the team's success rate at identifying a drug growing home is
about 95 per cent, Clausen said.

There is no typical grow op.

"It ranges from brand new houses in brand new subdivisions to old
timer houses in the back corner of large properties," he said.

Inside, the modifications have often made the home unsafe. The altered
wiring can be an electrocution or fire hazard, Clausen said.

It is safety, not the destruction of grow ops, that is the team's main
purpose, he said.

No charges are ever laid because the drug homes are discovered without

By disconnecting the power and forcing owners to clean up unsafe
wiring, the teams are cutting down on the number of electrical fires
the fire department must deal with. Langley has faced a number of grow
op related fires over the years, and one would-be grower killed
himself attempting to rewire the power to a home.
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