Thursday, August 23, 2012

Illegal Outdoor Marihuana Grow-ops Threaten Public Safety

(ORILLIA, ON) – As the annual harvest period approaches, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) are reminding residents and visitors of the dangers associated with outdoor marihuana grow-ops.

Typically, marihuana crops will be harvested starting as early as late August up until the beginning of October. During this period, people involved with growing illegal marihuana head into rural areas to continue to care for and harvest, in some cases, very large plots of marihuana plants. Typically, these illicit crops are located in swamps, corn fields, wooded areas, along rivers and on rural, rental properties with large acreage.

The numerous public safety risks include the potential presence of weapons and ammunition found on grow-op sites, and the potential for booby traps, rigged by the criminals growing these plants in an attempt to defend their illegal crops from other criminals known as ‘pot pirates’. All of these factors could lead to dangerous confrontations for unsuspecting, innocent people – including children – who just happen to be in the area of these illegal crops.

Another risk that the OPP wants to highlight is environmental. These criminal operations usually involve the unregulated use and disposal of many chemicals and other environmentally-damaging products.

The OPP Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) continue to warn the public about the increasing threat to public and police officer safety posed by the expansion of marihuana cultivation. Marihuana grown in Ontario is typically distributed throughout the province and exported to the United States. Stronger drugs, such as cocaine, as well as weapons and cash, often return to Ontario to fuel other criminal enterprises, which further endanger public safety.

Marihuana plants are bright green in colour and grow to between three and five feet in height. Marihuana leaves have seven jagged fingers and the plants give off a strong, pungent, musty odour. Common indicators of outdoor marihuana grow operations include:

1. Abandoned vehicles parked on side roads or trails.
2. People observed walking in remote areas for no apparent reason.
3. Bags of fertilizer, planting trays or chemicals located in remote areas.
4. Well-trampled trails in wooded or swamp areas.
5. Cleared out areas in swamps, wooded areas or corn fields.
6. Recent posting of “No Trespassing” signs.

Public Safety Tips

If you discover or suspect an outdoor marihuana grow operation:

1. As soon as possible, call your local police or Crime Stoppers.
2. Do not touch the marihuana plants due to potential chemical residue on the plants.
3. If confronted by a marihuana grower, leave the area immediately and contact police.
4. If possible and safe to do so, record any license plate or GPS information and notify police.
5. In some cases, outdoor marihuana grows are guarded or protected by booby- traps. If you discovered a crop of marihuana plants, do not enter the area! For your personal safety, turn around and immediately leave the area the same way you came in.

If you have any information regarding illegal marihuana grow ops, contact your local police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).