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BC: Pot Production Surges In City

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BC: Pot Production Surges In City

The problem of marijuana grow operations is growing faster in Prince George than any other city in the province, according to a comprehensive study.

The study, released by the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University College of the Fraser Valley, was authored by professor Darryl Plecas.

It examined every grow-op police file in B.C. between 1997 and 2003.

It shows the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island still account for more than 70 per cent of the B.C. pot industry, but Prince George is coming on strong.

In 1997, the Prince George area was ranked 12th with only 27 grow-ops. By 2000 it was one of only 11 communities in the province to have more than 100 grow-ops, and by 2003 it ranked seventh in B.C. with 195 operations known to police, the study said.

No other jurisdiction has seen the problem grow as quickly - more than 620 per cent over the study period.

"Interestingly, the largest variance from the provincial rate ( per capita ) can be seen in Chilliwack, Prince George and Kelowna, each of these being relatively rural locations compared to the other jurisdictions in the top 10," said Plecas. He told The Citizen that the provincial trend is showing growers are using Vancouver, Burnaby, Abbotsford, Delta, etc., less and are setting up shop in areas like Prince George.

"( In Prince George ) you still have the city, but you have the ruralness, too," he said. "Buying land is cheaper, there is more private space, houses further away from property lines, there are larger outbuildings and so on. Growers want larger crops and to avoid detection, so the way to do that is move to a place where you are less likely to be phoned in by your neighbours and more likely to have police difficulty investigating you."

Plecas says other statistics ought to alarm Prince George residents in regard to grow-ops. Not only are there more of them, but they are increasing in size. This is the reality in all places, he explains.

What is unique to the Prince George area is the weapons found on-site at grow-ops. Weapons are seized 11 per cent of the time in this area, while the provincial average is six per cent.

On the plus side, public safety due to fire is better in Prince George. The provincial average has grow-ops catching fire about four per cent of the time, but in this area there is only a one-per-cent frequency.

Outdoor plantations account for about 16 per cent of all grow-ops in the province ( 10 per cent on Crown land ) but in the Prince George area only 2.3 per cent of grow-ops reported or busted are found outside.

According to the report, there were more than 25,000 separate cases of marijuana grow-ops coming to the attention of police in B.C. between 1997 and 2003. That pegs the provincial rate at about 79 grow-ops per 100,000 people, which puts B.C. first in Canada in dramatic fashion ( second is New Brunswick at 46, no other province cracks the 40 mark, and next door Alberta is last with seven grow-ops per 100,000 residents ). The report claims the actual amount of pot produced in B.C. is about 79,817 kilograms. The average grow-op had 236 plants in 2003, up from 149 plants in 1997.

Of particular concern to taxpayers is the rate of electricity stolen from the publicly owned power grid to run grow-ops. It is estimated in the report that growers stole $3.2-million in B.C. Hydro power in 2003 alone.

Prince George Citizen (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 Prince George Citizen
Contact: letters@princegeorgecitizen.com
Website: http://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/
 

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