The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) is aiming to shut down all marijuana grow operations in the city with the launch of a new project.
The Marijuana Enforcement Project (MEP) was announced Thursday to focus more attention on an issue that police say is connected to other crimes and creates a public safety risk.
Const. Ian MacDonald said grow-ops are the "cornerstone and cash cows" of gangs and organized crime.
"There isn't a gang that deals in marijuana that doesn't deal in other drugs," he said.
Gangs set up grow-ops as an easy source of cash to grow their business and expand into bigger money-makers, including weapons and harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
MacDonald said grow-ops bring disruption and potential risks – including grow rips and fire – to the neighbourhoods where they set up.
However, the former system of investigating them wasn't the most efficient, he said. Patrol officers often receive information about suspected grow-ops from the public while they're on their beats, but they were required to forward the details to the drug enforcement unit.
MacDonald said the drug squad would then have to contact the complainant and obtain the details all over again, creating a delay in the process.
The MEP now allows any patrol officer who receives information about a suspected grow-op to do their own investigation. A member of the drug squad has been assigned to assist these officers with the process, such as obtaining search warrants.
This means more officers can handle these files and the entire procedure is sped up, MacDonald said.
He said it's difficult to assess the current extent of the problem, saying it's a myth that police have a huge list of homes to investigate.
"We're not being inundated with calls ... about grow-ops."
He said there could be two reasons for this: either the public is not reporting them as frequently as in the past or there aren't as many because of police initiatives to make Abbotsford a lousy place for gangs to do business.
It's hoped the announcement of the MEP will encourage more residents to report suspicious activity.
"We're not expecting that every call we get is going to take down a drug kingpin, but we want to make their neighbourhood safer," MacDonald said.
To report a crime, contact the APD at 604-859-5225, visit the front counter at 2838 Justice Way, go online at abbypd.ca or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
HOW TO SPOT A GROW-OP
– inconsistencies in visitor behaviour – no people around then frequent visitors for short periods
– covered windows – black plastic or heavy curtains pressed against the windows, or tightly shut blinds
– condensation on windows
– skunk-like odour coming from the home
– electrical humming, fans, trickling water
– bright lights
– discarded equipment in the yard such as nutrient containers, wiring, soil and PVC piping
– Source: abbypd.ca