Anti-Marijuana Team Reboots in Fall

August 7, 2008


Pot growing operations will likely soon be under PSIT scrutiny once again.

The Public Safety Inspection Teams will be back on duty soon, after being shut down following a theft accusation against a Township firefighter in the spring.

“We expect they’ll be up and running again in the fall,” said Township Mayor Kurt Alberts.

In early May, there was an accusation made that a Township firefighter on the team had stolen a halogen worklight and two batteries from one of the homes being inspected.

The accusation came from another member of the team.  Charges have since been forwarded to Crown counsel about the incident, according to fire department spokesperson assistant chief Bruce Ferguson.

During the time the team was shut down, an outside independent review of the way it operated was completed by a Surrey fire department member, said Alberts.

The review compared how the Langley PSIT worked compared to other, similar forces around the province.

With the review done, the teams should be up to speed again soon, although no exact date has been set.

The PSIT was formed more than a year ago using new provincial legislation as its base.

The legal change allowed municipalities to get electric consumption data from BC Hydro for individual homes and businesses.

If the power use was very high, it might indicate that a home was being used as a marijuana grow operation, because grow ops use high powered lights and other gear.

Once homes were identified, a team consisting of a Township bylaw officer, two RCMP officers, an electrical inspector, a clerical worker and a firefighter began an investigation.

They would check out suspected properties from the road and look for signs that there might be a legitimate use for the electricity.

Some of the homes on the list turned out to be the locations of home-based businesses or avid power tool users.

Once they suspected a home to be a grow op, the team would move in to make an electrical inspection.  They had to give 24 hours notice to occupants.

In many cases, they found the remnants of hastily dismantled grow ops.  Sometimes they found plants still there.

More than 220 were found or disrupted during the course of that first year.

The legal reason for the team is that high electricity use and grow ops are a fire hazard.  The RCMP members couldn’t make any arrests as a result of the team’s activities, because there were no criminal search warrants for any of the homes.

However, pot was confiscated and owners of the homes had to pay to clean up unsafe wiring.

Langley City does not have a similar full-time team, but other Lower Mainland communities have tried their own versions.  Surrey and Coquitlam’s teams have recently come under legal fire.  In Coquitlam, a Lions Club fundraiser was targeted, apparently because a hot tub used too much power.  He was told his power would be cut.

Source: Langley Advance (CN BC)


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