44 Arrests 'just The Start' Of Blitz On Pot Growers

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SURREY - A multi-agency crackdown on Surrey's marijuana growing operations
has resulted in the arrest of 44 people and the seizure of more than 16,000
marijuana plants in raids on 38 residences.

And Surrey RCMP Constable Tim Shields said Tuesday that's just the beginning
of an enforcement effort involving 20 officers supported by 11 public and
private agencies.

The crackdown -- which so far has targeted newer homes, most of them
occupied by the owners -- is expected to last six months in a major effort
to turn up the heat on grow-ops.

"The message is that it's not just the police who are concerned about the
problems associated with grow-ops. It's the entire community," Shields said.

Shields said growing operations are also associated with secondary crimes
such as drive-by shootings, home invasions, homicides, money laundering,
cross-border smuggling, cocaine importation, outlaw motorcycle gangs and
Asian organized crime. In addition, the danger of fires caused by
substandard wiring and of respiratory problems caused by mould and mildew
pose a constant threat to the families and children living with growing
operations.

Among the agencies offering RCMP support in the crackdown are B.C. Hydro,
the ministry of children and families, the Canada Customs and Revenue
Agency, Block Watch, the Surrey Crime Prevention Society, real estate
agents, Surrey bylaw officers, and Surrey firefighters.

Shields said residences found to contain growing operations are typically
"restrained" by the courts, meaning they cannot be bought or sold. If the
owners are ultimately convicted, they can be ordered to forfeit the homes to
the Crown, he added.

On Nov. 12, Thao Heidi Doan was convicted of cultivation of marijuana in
B.C. Supreme Court, and her $400,000 house at 17768 -- 100th Avenue was
forfeited.

The 16,000 marijuana plants seized and destroyed by RCMP during the first
month of their crackdown, from Nov. 13 to December 12, would have
conservatively produced 1,350 kilograms of dried marijuana bud, or 2.73
million marijuana joints, Shields said.

Two of the investigations during the past month began after growing
operations caught fire. One fire, believed caused by a cigarette or joint,
led to the death of a 69-year-old man. Most of the basement and some
upstairs rooms were being used to grow pot.

In another case, a male attempting to steal from a growing operation was
severely beaten and stabbed by the growers.

Shields added that children were found in seven of the 38 homes, requiring
involvement of the child-welfare authorities.

In 14 homes, "hydro bypasses" were used to steal electricity, he said. One
residence was fortified with barred windows and gated steel doors.


Pubdate: Wed, 17 Dec 2003
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Webpage: http://www.mapinc.org/cancom/E64D9D95-69C5-4A3E-9280-727F91B8F455
Copyright: 2003 The Vancouver Sun
Contact: sunletters@png.canwest.com
Website: http://www.canada.com/vancouver/vancouversun/