Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rupert Grow ops are showing up in the most unusual places

A few more details have filtered out of the discovery of two grow ops in the downtown area in the last week.

The elaborate set up for cultivation was explained in Friday’s Daily News, a system which saw everything from heavy charcoal filters to reduce the odour to 1,000 watt light bulbs with radiating heat shields to provide artificial light for the Rupert growing season.

Aware that there are more than likely other operations in the city, the local RCMP provided some signs for local residents to be aware of, as far as indicating potentially illegal activity. And if concerned about a specific location, residents are asked to contact the RCMP who will follow up with an investigation.

While the full story hasn’t been delivered by the police yet, the recent events have provided the Daily News with some content over the last few days. With the paper featuring stories or pictures of the recent busts all through a good portion of last week.

Police say little about alleged grow ops
The Daily News
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Page three

On Fri., March 21, Prince Rupert RCMP executed two search warrants in the downtown core of Prince Rupert, resulting in the seizure of more than 600 marijuana and other property related to alleged grow-ops.

The first search warrant was executed on Friday morning in the 600 block of Third Avenue West, and the second warrant was executed in the evening in the 800 block of Second Avenue West. Both scenes were attended by police investigators, Forensic Ident specialists, the fire department and BC Hydro.

Because the investigation into both alleged grow operations is ongoing, RCMP are not releasing any information that will compromise the integrity of their investigations. What is known is that the files did not originate as a result of information provided by BC Hydro, and that there was a level of sophistication involved in at least one of the alleged grow operations aimed specifically at masking the odour of marijuana.

The Daily News will have more details of the technology used in these alleged grow operations in tomorrow’s paper.

Police look to unplug grow-ops
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, March 28, 2008
Page Five

A large quantity of equipment was seized from buildings where alleged marijuana grow operations were discovered after Prince Rupert RCMP executed two search warrants last Friday, all of it used to either cultivate or cover up the growth of more than 600 plants, say police.

Officers said large charcoal filters were in place with the specific purpose of masking the potent scent of marijuana that the grow operations would exude without them. The air inside the grow-ops would circulate through the nearly five-foot-tall and extremely heavy filters, eliminating the odour from the air and making it difficult for anyone to detect from outside the premises, said police.

A large number of 1,000-watt lightbulbs were also seized, which are used to provide artificial sunlight to plants. Along with the bulbs were more than 40 circular light hoods, each several feet in diameter and used to reflect the light back down onto plants to give them the maximum amount of light possible. Large fans and carbon dioxide generators were also found in the grow-ops, which police said are used to feed the plants and redistribute air throughout the area where the plants are growing, enabling them to grow larger, faster. Police also took many electrical ballasts out of the buildings. They are typically used to ground the electricity and help power up the 1,000-watt lightbulbs.

Constable Krista Vrolyk, community policing and media relations officer with the Prince Rupert RCMP, is familiar with marijuana grow operations. Before coming to Prince Rupert, she was involved in close to 100 different grow-op cases and has seen much of the same equipment used in the same manner.

"In terms of a large grow operation, this is pretty standard," she said. "Not every grow-op has charcoal filters and the exhaust fans or other air circulation devices. The ones used here are large fans, I've seen everything from an oscillating home fan to large ones like these. The 1,000-watt bulbs are very standard, as well as the ballasts and electrical panels."

Vrolyk said grow-op sophistication varies between each case. She has seen instances when suspects thought moth balls would be enough to mask the odour and she has seen equipment such as the large charcoal filters allegedly used in these two cases.

Vrolyk also said that buildings used for marijuana grow operations have, in some cases, been rigged with traps, ranging from hanging doorway beads covered in fish hooks to explosives being triggered by intruders.

She said Prince Rupert RCMP wants the public to know that in many instances, marijuana grow operations are only discovered as a result of a tip and information that law enforcement receives from citizens, and that knowing how to spot a marijuana grow operation is a useful crime-fighting tool. Some of the telltale signs of a grow-op are when no one appears to live in the residence, people attend the residence sporadically and at odd hours, windows are covered by tightly fitting blinds, curtains or cardboard, lights appear to be on timers, a strange humming sound comes from the basement, a skunk-like odour emanates from the residence, and condensation on windows.

When present in isolation these factors may not indicate a marijuana grow operation, however when several of these factors are found, a marijuana grow operation may be present.
Police remind the public that grow operations pose significant threats to public safety, as they not only represent fire hazards, but they are often associated with violence and organized crime. Vrolyk said police will be vigilant in efforts to investigate and eradicate marijuana grow operations in the community, and urge anyone with information to contact them or Crimestoppers.

No comments: