A house in a residential neighbourhood off Mount Seymour Parkway where police discovered almost 900 marijuana plants this summer has become the first home on the North Shore listed in the RCMP's new marijuana grow operation website.
North Vancouver RCMP searched the nondescript house at 3356 Garibaldi Way under a search warrant on June 30, and found a grow-op with 883 plants.
That address is now among 69 in B.C. posted to a new online database that lists addresses across the country where Mounties have dismantled grow ops.
According to the police, addresses posted to the website will stay on the public database for one year.
Corp. Richard DeJong of the North Vancouver RCMP, said police decided to post the addresses to raise public awareness that grow-ops exist in their neighbourhoods. The website also serves as a warning to potential home buyers who may unwittingly purchase a house that has previously been used as a grow-op, said DeJong.
Kelvin Neufeld, a director of the B.C. Real Estate Association, calls the move a "brilliant first step" in helping home-buyers. Although disclosure forms require sellers to let buyers know if the home has ever been a grow-op, "the bad guys aren't always truthful when they're filling it out," he said.
But not everyone agrees the website is warranted. Micheal Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said it's not the RCMP's job to protect real estate buyers or hand out "extra-judicial punishment" to those accused of having grow-ops.
"We have a criminal justice system," she said. Vonn said the database has the potential to lower nearby property values or hurt landlords who had no idea their tenants were growing marijuana.
"What do they consider a grow-op?" she added. "Six plants in a closet?"
In the case of those grow-ops so far posted to the website, the number of plants seized at any one address ranges from 14 to almost 6,500.
According to information filed by the RCMP to obtain the search warrant for the North Vancouver address, neighbours first alerted police in May that something fishy might be going on. After the house sold to new owners at the beginning of the year, nobody was seen moving into the house, but several young men showed up and began some kind of renovations, with drilling and hammering sounds coming from the house in the middle of the night. After that, according to the search warrant application, the blinds and windows were always kept closed, no garbage or recycling was ever put out, and different people were seen going in and out of the house every couple of days. Neighbours also reported a strong "skunky" odour coming from the home and that a German shepherd dog was sometimes left in the house and could be heard barking.
On June 30, police raided the house and dismantled the grow operation.
DeJong refused to discuss any details of the search, saying the grow-op is still the subject of a "pretty indepth investigation."
So far no charges have been laid.
A B.C. Assessment report lists Gurdev Singh Cheema and Avtar Kaur Cheema of Squamish as owners of the property. They bought the house, now valued at $759,000, in February of this year.
The West Vancouver Police Department has no similar database, and spokesman Cpl. Jag Johal said he isn't aware of any plans to create one.
Both the District of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver require property owners to remediate if a grow-op is discovered, including cleaning up any chemical contamination and mould. In the District of North Vancouver, information listing the former grow-op and a re-occupancy permit are placed on the municipal property tax certificate for the address. In West Vancouver, owners must notify new occupants in writing that a grow-op has been removed and cleaned up to meet standards of the local bylaw.
Neufeld said one of the problems for buyers is "there's no standard place you can go" to find out which properties have been used as grow-ops, and no consistent standards of remediation. He'd like to see the province step in to change that.
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