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Grow-ops Flourish Around City

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They ranged from a few plants in the basement of a bungalow to hundreds of leafy -- and lucrative -- green plants flourishing under bright lights in multiple apartments spread over multiple floors in suburban apartment buildings.

That's what the Toronto Police Service discovered last year as it waged war on the brigade of indoor pot growers who seemed undeterred by threats of stiffer sentences and stepped-up vigilance by law enforcement, Hydro and the real estate industry, not to mention nosy neighbours.

"A lot of time it's a business decision where they're going to put it in and the factors that go into it," said Det. Don Theriault, of the drug squad.

He's responsible for the area east of Yonge St. A look at the more than 270 indoor grow-ops dismantled by Toronto cops up until Dec. 12 last year reveals the obvious: When it comes to setting up shop, the city's big lights are no draw when it comes to keeping things on the down low.

"With a marijuana grow operation, the persons are going to keep unusual hours, and there's going to be smells coming from the place . that would make it advantageous to be in a suburban neighbourhood rather than a dense neighbourhood," Theriault said.

A majority of grows were found in private residences, while more than 100 were discovered in apartments -- alluring to growers for their single hydro meters and near record-level vacancy rates.

Police found 13 in industrial ( commercial ) spaces.

No grows were found in any of Toronto's tonier neighbourhoods -- meaning don't look for any fire sales in Forest Hill due to provincial seizures under the Civil Remedies Act.

"It wouldn't ( be ) cost-effective or make a whole lot of sense to put a grow-op into a house that's going to cost double that it would from another neighbourhood."

It remains to be seen how the province will deal with properties used to grow pot by renters, not owners -- which is not uncommon, Theriault says.

"We are finding innocent homeowners who didn't know their house was being used for grow-ops."

Theriault wouldn't hazard a guess at how many indoor grow operations exist in Toronto or the GTA.

Previous law enforcement estimates put the number in the thousands.

Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Toronto Star
Contact: lettertoed@thestar.ca
Website: thestar.com | Toronto Star | Canada's largest daily
 
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