LANDLORD REVEALS KEY TO POT BUST
Steps Up Unit Inspections After Giant Haul
A Hamilton landlord is doing unit-by-unit checks to ensure there are no more massive marijuana grow operations in any of his rental properties.
Anthony Di Cenzo, vice-president of Di Cenzo Management Inc., said the company got a wake-up call after police discovered almost 12,000 marijuana plants worth about $12 million in highrise apartment buildings at 11 Grandville Ave., 77 Delawana Dr. and 50 Violet Dr.
Di Cenzo also revealed for the first time how police -- with the help of the landlord -- were able to establish a connection among grow operations in 50 different units that had been rented to 50 different people.
Di Cenzo said the "commonality" among the grow units was that the growers had replaced the original locks with three deadbolts on each unit.
"A visual inspection of the doors in the three buildings was undertaken by the police and landlord representative, and where similar locking mechanisms were discovered and the sound of ventilators could be heard through the doors, the units were further investigated," he wrote in an e-mail.
In some cases, he added, there were coverings on the outside windows that suggested the unit was being used as a marijuana grow operation.
Last week, the landlord and Hamilton police checked another area highrise at 40 Grandville Ave. for possible grow operations. The building had been associated in the past with the Original Blood Brothers ( OBB ) street gang, whose members have a history of violence and drug dealing.
They didn't find any marijuana laboratories in the building. But Di Cenzo said the company will continue inspecting the remainder of its rental units on its own.
He added the discovery of the marijuana labs in highrise apartments should also send a "loud and clear message" for all landlords to do regular inspections in their rental properties. In the past, grow operations were usually found in single-family homes, large enclosures or outdoors. The east-end bust represented the biggest seizure of home-grown marijuana in Hamilton history and the first time local police had found a marijuana operation spread over three buildings and dozens of units.
Inspector Rick Wills, of Hamilton police investigative services, has said police believe local people are behind the operation and the investigation will be long and complex. There have been no arrests so far.
The case came to light last month when police received a tip that marijuana was being cultivated in one of the apartment buildings. After the initial discovery, they quickly moved to two nearby buildings where they discovered about three dozen more units with potted marijuana plants. About a week later, the superintendent in a Di Cenzo building discovered another unit with marijuana plants after noticing it had the same locks as the 49 other apartments.
Di Cenzo said the company hired an environmental consultant who checked the units for mould and other contaminants that could affect air quality. He expects to have the consultant's final report this week but the preliminary inspection indicated there wasn't any mould.
2007 The Hamilton Spectator