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Breaking the Law to Bust Grow-Ops

By Hempology | January 1, 2007

Surrey Residents Making False Break-in Calls

Surrey residents are calling in bogus break-in complaints to get Mounties to raid suspected marijuana growing operations.

The tactic was disclosed by a senior drug investigator during a B.C. Supreme Court sentencing hearing for a husband-and-wife team busted during a 2003 crackdown by Surrey RCMP.

“There are an increasing number of incidents where frustrated citizens living near a grow operation report false break-and-enter offences ( at ) that residence in order to get police to act,” Surrey RCMP Cpl. John Karlovcec said, testifying as an expert witness before Justice Bruce Josephson in New Westminster.

Karlovcec’s remarks were summarized by Justice Josephson in his reasons for judgment.

Karlovcec said marijuana grow ops in Surrey have increased “dramatically” since 1997, reaching “epidemic proportions in the Lower Mainland.”

Marijuana-related home invasions or so-called grow rips where crooks stage their own raids on growers now average two reported cases a week, Karlovcec said.

He indicated the actual number of such home invasions is likely much higher, “given the fact such offences are substantially under-reported for obvious reasons.”

Karlovcec said police in Surrey receive 300 to 600 tips on grow ops a year, but only have the resources to act on the “easier ones,” about one in four reported.

As a result, he said, some people make fake break-in reports to get police to investigate suspected indoor grow ops when their initial complaints are not acted on.

Surrey RCMP’s Cpl. Roger Morrow did not dispute Karlovcec’s assessment, but warned residents who make false reports of criminal activity face charges of mischief.

As for the number of police available to raid grow ops, Morrow said the force would always like more resources, but it must be balanced against the cost to taxpayers and the need to apply increased resources to other investigations.

Morrow noted Surrey has pioneered a new approach that sees B.C. Hydro, firefighters and city crews join the fight against grow ops.

Under the Electrical and Fire Safety Inspection program, B.C. Hydro identifies homes using extraordinary amounts of power, and firefighters and city crews inspect the properties.

At the New West sentencing hearing, 51-year-old Kien Tam Nguyen and 45-year-old Nga Thuy Nguyen were given 18 months of house arrest for running a grow operation out of a three-storey Surrey house worth $375,000.

The judge ordered the house forfeited for sale by law enforcement authorities to recover enforcement costs.

Police estimate the operation generated $20,000 a month in revenue.

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