'The Republic'-East Vancouver's opinionated newspaper
Fortnightly  •  Thursday February 21, 2002  •  Vol 2 No 32
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Who you gonna call?

Growbusters continue to hammer down the doors, and Matthew Burrows takes a look inside

by Matthew Burrows

Vancouver police are pushing local residents to self-police each other in the department's ongoing fight against grow-ops in the city.

"Got a 'grow' in your neighbourhood? Call Grow-busters!" reads the block-watch (non-hemp) leaflet, passed out liberally to apartment buildings and houses around Vancouver's Eastside recently.

This rather immature attempt at humour comes hot on the heels of bad publicity for a department that never passes up an opportunity for a bit of feel-good arse-kicking when it comes to the War on Grow-Ops. Now, after we have already read about hazings and botched drug raids in the papers, we have to put up with VPD make-work leaflets requesting us to do more dirty work for Sergeant Tom Cork and his merry band of six armed henchmen who comprise the city's Growbusters force.

'In just over a year of operation, Growbusters have knocked off about 500 grow-ops, resulting in the seizure of over $110 million worth of marijuana [at street level prices] and equipment,' reads the Block Watch leaflet, dated in the fall of 2001. 'This year alone they have checked out an impressive 1,300 addresses. They have also come across interesting items like the two semi-automatic hand guns from a grow-op [in the 800-block of West 66th Avenue.] In August 2001 alone the squad executed 52 marijuana cultivation warrants.'

Aside from the fact that none of these figures are sourced and cannot be verified, there are other basic criminal justice issues being blankly ignored by our trusted boys and girls in blue.

There is the question of increased surveillance and police intrusion. Do we really feel better knowing the police 'checked out' 1,300 houses? If they 'knocked off' only 500, does this mean that they only have a one-in-three chance of kicking in the right door? Those are poor odds- but not surprising when, as the pamphlet says, a neighbour's 'tip and the odour are generally enough to apply for a search warrant.'

What happened at the 800 'checked out' but innocent houses? Assuming that the police did uncover the 'interesting' semi-automatic handguns of which they glowingly boast in their newsletter, under what circumstances were they uncovered and were they ever unequivocally linked to weed cultivation?

Any police action must be viewed with the reality in mind that weed is not going away. Sergeant Cork could be given 100 cops to boot down a whole lot more doors, and little would change. Sure, they may uncover more mould-ridden hovels, but they're never touching the supply-and-demand. Weed-heads want the weed and they're going to smoke it, with or without Growbusters.

There's room for all viewpoints here. But if you're concerned that your neighbour isn't shooting straight arrows and is playing too much Doors in the afternoon, go ahead and call Grow-busters. If the cops kick your front door down by accident, don't come crying to me.

The tip line is open 24 hours-a-day and is checked daily. Callers may leave their phone number if they would like to be informed of the outcome of their information, or they may make their call as anonymous as they wish (their words, not mine).

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