Mission RCMP are warning people who grow medical or illegal marijuana that they and their plants may be targets of organized crime, or “grow rips.” “We really do believe it’s an organized group of individuals targeting all types of marihuana grow-ops in Mission. We’re concerned because we’ve observed a growing level of violence during grow rips,” said RCMP Cpl. Sharon Siluch. Criminals are prepared to use force in order to subdue occupants and steal the pot crops, she said.
“These people are serious and they’re violent.” There have been 32 marijuana grow op thefts in Mission in the past year from homes and outbuildings, with violence used in 10 of those instances. “We’ve noticed the violence is increasing, and the type of violence (is changing). They use guns, machetes, bear spray – two victims were shot,” said Siluch.
Suspects have also used impact weapons like bats and swords and bindings like duct tape or plastic straps to subdue victims, she said. To sniff out the grow-ops, the thieves use sophisticated surveillance methods including multiple vehicles and lookouts, two-way radios, trespassing onto private property to monitor electrical meter readings or to investigate marijuana odours.
Siluch said criminals are even using reconnaissance techniques such as drilling holes into outbuildings and using “snake” cameras to monitor plant maturity in order to plan thefts. Mission RCMP has been successful in charging three people involved in grow rips this year. Siluch said the individuals do not appear to be connected.
Kenneth W. Chudley, 26, of Abbotsford was charged with robbery, break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offense, aggravated assault, unlawful confinement in December 2010. Chudley was found guilty on some of those charges and is expected to be sentenced soon. Stefan Andre Morin, 27, of Coquitlam was charged with break and enter with intent to commit, in March 2011. Christopher Anthony Morgado, 24, of Coquitlam was charged with creak and enter and intent to commit in May, 2011.
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