Hamilton police will examine an initiative where it can demolish homes used for marijuana grow operations.
The initiative, practised in British Columbia and Niagara Falls, follows Councillor Terry Whitehead telling the police services board about a home in an affluent part of his west Mountain ward that sat vacant and boarded up after being used as for a marijuana grow op a few years ago.
"It's a blight in the community and it stays there an indefinite time," he said yesterday.
Whitehead said that in some cases, the homes can't be sold and are owned by banks. He said banks might like a mechanism where the building can be demolished.
Police and the Ontario government have used the Civil Remedies Act to seize properties connected to grow ops or drug activity, such as the Sandbar Tavern in 2006.
Deputy Chief Ken Leendertse said, since the start of this year, police have already raided seven homes and seized $1.7 million worth of pot. He supported Whitehead's suggestion, saying it might make banks and landlords more careful about who they deal with in selling or leasing properties.
"The idea of demolition, it sends out a message to the criminal element, but it also makes other people pay attention," Leendertse said.
In a report, Police Chief Brian Mullan said grow ops in the city have become more sophisticated, using more technological advancements, and often are being operated by organized criminal networks. He estimated there are hundreds of grow houses operating in the city.
The majority come to light either through anonymous tips to the police from neighbours, landlords or concerned citizens. Others are uncovered by police investigating a break-in or a fire. Between 2005 and 2008, police executed search warrants at 225 homes and seized more than 71,000 pot plants.
By Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator
Jan 20, 2009