GREEN TEAM KEPT BUSY BY MASSIVE CROP OF GROW OPS
IT seems the only things growing during a frigid Winnipeg winter are indoor pot plants and the number of illegal grow op busts conducted by city police.
It's been only six weeks since the new year began, but already more than $8 million of illegally grown marijuana has been seized by police at 13 homes at or near the city.
Police gave details yesterday about the three most recent raids of grow ops operating in different areas of the city resulting in charges against two men.
On Jan. 24, police busted an operation at 1054 Louelda St. with nearly $1 million worth of plants inside.
The investigation into this home led police to a home on Redonda Street Wednesday, where 270 plants worth nearly $500,000 were seized.
But Valentine's Day would yield police their second largest publicly announced bust of the year so far.
An early-morning raid of a house on Whiteway Road in Transcona netted more than 1,200 plants worth $1.4 million.
The bust is second only to a Jan. 15 seizure of 1,600 plants worth nearly $2 million at 11 Burmac Rd.
Police are not linking the three busts to organized crime, but they are part of a related investigation.
"It doesn't have to be some major organized crime group to be involved in this type of criminal activity," said police spokesman Sgt. Kelly Dennison.
In each of the three related busts, large amounts of power and water were being stolen to grow the crop.
Manitoba Hydro said that on average, a typical-sized home with an active grow op inside uses about five times the electricity considered to be normal use.
Dennison indicated the most recent busts may not significantly affect what appears to be a thriving pot-growing trade in the city, adding the number of recent busts may show a rising trend.
Dennison said the police Green Team Unit is one of the busiest units within the force and handles a number of active investigations.
Police also warn that grow ops are turning up more often in wealthier neighbourhoods around the city.
Dennison said the signs of an active grow op include papered-up or tin-foil covered windows, and people arriving then leaving at the same times every day.
And then there's the smell. "I can tell you, if you're living next door to it, you're going to smell it -- it has to be vented somehow," Dennison said.
Wei Peng Huang, 37, of Winnipeg, has been charged with three counts of producing marijuana, three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and theft offences for the Hydro and Water.
Barry Alvin Martens, 47, also of Winnipeg, is charged with two counts of producing marijuana, two counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking, and theft offenses.
11 signs a home is hiding a grow op
* People are only at the home for short periods of time
* Large fans, lights and plant containers are carried into the home at odd hours
* The exterior of the property is untidy
* People go in and out of the home using only the garage door
* Discarded plant material litters the surrounding area
* Windows are covered to block light and conceal activity
* Bright light can be seen escaping from windows
* Windows covered in condensation
* Construction sounds and ventilation fans can be heard
* A skunk-like smell can be detected outside the home
* Hydro meters are tampered with
The Winnipeg Police Service
2008 Winnipeg Free Press