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Grow Op Storage Costing Thousands


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Calgary police are taking steps to get rid of eight years' worth of seized marijuana grow operation equipment they have been paying to store in an Edmonton warehouse -- a move that could have a ripple effect for police services across the country.

"There's no reason to keep it," Sgt. Ron Ternes said of the hundreds of crates of equipment. "Why are we holding all this stuff?"

The Edmonton warehouse is being used to store at least 630 crates -- each about three metres by two metres.

Police say they will dispose of unclaimed goods and move toward a system where the equipment is destroyed at the scene.

This is expected to save tens of thousands -- if not hundreds of thousands -- of dollars.

Ternes began looking into the storage issue about four years ago as he started refining the process for storing and dealing with drug growing equipment seized under warrants.

But the problem still remained that there was a massive volume of seized grow op equipment that had been shipped to Edmonton, where it was stored in a warehouse by an arm of the federal government.

The goods were held in the provincial capital because the special projects management directorate doesn't have storage in Calgary, Ternes said.

About 18 months ago, a deputy chief analyzing figures related to proceeds of crime reimbursements from the federal government realized the number was smaller than it should be.

The officer discovered the service was being charged to have the equipment stored in Edmonton.

"It was almost like a hidden cost," Ternes said.

Ternes questioned why taxpayers were shelling out to store equipment for trials that had come and gone.

"If we hadn't taken this action, they would have just kept storing it and storing it and leasing more warehouses," he said. "That comes out of our budget, which comes out of the taxpayers' pockets.

"The monies we save can be put toward policing in Calgary," Ternes said.

The chairman of the Calgary police commission praised the service for taking action, but said he wasn't surprised to hear of the problem.

"Wherever you get a big operation and you're working in an integrated fashion with other services, these things happen," Denis Painchaud said.

"What's important is people are paying attention and are doing something about it."

He said that policing is the largest budgetary item taxpayers are funding in the city.

Police departments from B.C. to Ontario are facing similar situations and are keeping a close eye on Calgary's progress, with the hope of following suit.

"It's become an issue right across the country," Ternes said. "We're the farthest ahead in the process. We're getting a lot of inquiries from departments across the country about the process."

In working through the process to get rid of the stored items, Ternes has had to get a series of forfeiture orders signed by a provincial court judge. The judge also said, to cover all bases, the service would have to notify the owners of the equipment that Calgary police are moving toward having it destroyed.

In a massive classified advertisement listing hundreds of case file numbers, police are giving notice they will destroy the marijuana grow operation equipment seized by officers between January 1999 and March 2007.

The ad says anyone who owned the equipment and wants to make a claim to have it returned can contact Ternes.

But he doesn't expect people will step forward because once they admit ownership of property related to a criminal offence, they will be subject to further investigation.

"It's a technicality," he said of the ad.

Ternes expects the service will get the authorization in the first week of January to go ahead with destroying the stored goods.

The majority of the items are metal and will be recycled.

Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007 Calgary Herald
Contact: letters@theherald.canwest.com
Website: canada.com
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