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Chatham-Kent Police Service bust four illegal grow ops


February 11, 2021
By Canadian Press

Chatham-Kent police has nipped a number of illegal marijuana grow-opssaid to be affiliated with organized crimein the bud.

In a media statement released last week, the CKPS announced it has clamped down on four illicit grow-ops in the past six months.

A total of 25,000 marijuana plants have been seized it total with an estimated street value of $25.5-million.

According to CKPS information officer Renee Cowell none of the people arrested are from Chatham-Kent.

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“Criminal organizations, primarily from the GTA, infiltrate other communities to avoid detection by police in their own area,” Cowell said in an email message in response to questions from The Herald.

Cowell explains Chatham-Kent is a target because the municipality has numerous large buildings sitting vacant.

“These buildings and properties attract members of the criminal element to our area as they are willing to pay large amounts of money to rent or lease these buildings,” Cowell reports.

Police have been busy in January with three illegal grow-ops being busted this month.

On Jan. 8, the CKPS Intelligence Unit discovered a large amount of cash and 9,004 plants valued at $9-million at a Richmond Street property in Chatham.

A 34-year-old Markham man and a 62-year-old Stouffville man were arrested inside the building and charged with cultivating and possession of cannabis for the purpose of selling, contrary to the Cannabis Act.

Police have also issued a summons for a 58-year-old Markham man in connection the incident.

On the same day a fire drew emergency crews to a Grand Avenue East property in Chatham, where another illegal grow-op was discovered. As a result, police seized 489 plants with an estimated street value of $489,000.

Police have charged a 62-year-old Kitchener woman in connection with the incident. She has been charged under the Cannabis Act with cultivating for the purpose of illegally selling marijuana.

On the 15th of the month, police visited a different Richmond Street property where they seized 8,580 plants with an estimated street value of $8.6-million.

More out-of-towners were arrested, including a 46-year-old Markham man, a 26-year-old Scarborough man, a 24-year-old Oshawa man, a 52-year-old Markham woman and a 26-year-old North York man.

The suspects were all hiding within the building when the warrant was executed.

Last September police charged a 48-year-old London man with cultivating marijuana for the purpose of selling following the seizure of 7,300 plants at a greenhouse facility on Maynard Line east of Chatham.

Cowell says that makeshift housing is often discovered on the premises of the grow-ops.

“It is common for these illegal operations to have living quarters on the property,” Cowell says, adding it ensures someone is always present to tend to plants and to guard them for security purposes.

CKPS Gary Conn has not spoken publicly on the matter, choosing to communicate only through public press releases.

As part of the recent media release regarding the seizures, Conn said the sophisticated operations contravene regulations set out by Health Canada.

Conn says money generated by large-scale illegal grow-ops is often used to fund other illicit activities carried out by organized crime.