HYDRO WILL TARGET SUSPECTED B.C. GROW OPS
Near the end of this month, municipalities will have BC Hydro records on demand, data which will be turned over to police to determine whether spikes in power use were caused by a marijuana grow operation.
Marijuana grow ops require high power consumption, typically three to 10 times the amount used by a normal home.
"This amendment will help local authorities target and shut down marijuana grow operations more quickly and more efficiently," Minister of Public Safety John Les said in the legislature Thursday, as he introduced Bill 25. "With these amendments, municipalities will now be able to obtain information from electricity companies about residences with unusual power consumption."
The names and addresses of the account holders will now be given to local authorities to investigate whether their homes contain a grow operation, he said.
One of the main impediments to the program, investigators say, has been the time-consuming process of acquiring BC Hydro information through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act ( FOI ). To obtain an FOI request, the city first had to have tips from neighbours. Now the investigation process will be reversed: power records first, then assessment.
Launched last year, the Electrical Fire Safety Initiative ( EFSI ) involved fire, police, bylaw and building inspectors tracking high energy use and posting a notice that the home will be inspected in 48 hours.
Len Garis, Surrey Fire Chief, acknowledges the new legislation will be controversial.
"The new program may be viewed by some as an infringement of privacy, however it is believed that the public's safety is more compelling and outweighs any privacy rights," Garis said.