Stamping out marijuana grows

Surrey is reporting great success shutting down marijuana grow operations, but acknowledges it doesn
Surrey is reporting great success shutting down marijuana grow operations, but acknowledges it doesn't know how many are still in this city.
— image credit: File

The number of grow ops this city has been able to detect has dropped by 82 per cent in the last four years.

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis has released his annual report on the Electrical Fire Safety Initiative (EFSI) which has been instrumental in shutting down marijuana grow operations in this city.

The pilot program began in 2005 and started in earnest two years later, when 445 grows  were found.

Since then, between 100 and 150 have been found annually, with only 82 grow operations discovered last year.

Garis realizes that doesn't mean the problem has gone away.

Instead, he says, criminals are adapting to the measures being undertaken to find them.

As part of the program, B.C. Hydro reports any home that is three times the average daily usage and the EFSI team kicks into gear, placing a 72-hour warning for inspection on the door. Usually, people pack up their plants and leave.

Garis now thinks some of the growers are remaining under the threshold to avoid detection.

They are growing smaller crops and using more effective means of lighting.

He couldn't say for sure how many grow ops are left in Surrey, or how much the EFSI has reduced them, except to say anecdotally, the reduction has been quite significant.

Garis, the architect of the program, is working on other high-tech means to disrupt the indoor plantations in this city.

Garis is working with a company called Telops to develop a hyper spectral analysis that can spot byproducts specific to marijuana grows and methamphetamine labs.

Until that time, he's taking this latest update as a win for his teams and a boon for the community.

"We're not getting complaints from the public, we're not seeing fires like we used to," Garis said. "And that means a safer community as far as I'm concerned."





Signs of a grow operation

•    Residents rarely appear to be home and attend the house for brief periods of time. The radio and televisions are left on. Mail delivery is left unchecked and junk mail piles up.

•    Visitors come and go at odd hours and may behave strangely.

•    Entry to the home is usually through the garage or a back entrance to conceal activity.

•    The exterior of the home is often untidy, with uncut grass, garbage bags, used soil and plastic pots.

•    Windows are boarded or covered and may have a layer of condensation.

•    Equipment such as large fans, lights and plastic plant containers is carried into the home.

•    Sounds of construction or electrical humming can be heard. Strange odours (a skunk-like smell) emanate from the house.

•    Hydro metres are tampered with, signs of digging are found near the hydro box.

•    The neighbourhood experiences localized surges or decreases in power.

•    The property has warning signs, such as “Beware of Dog” or “Guard Dog”.

~City of Surrey website

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