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RCMP warn about violent 'grow rips' in Mission

Mission RCMP are warning that both illegal and licensed marijuana grow operations in the district are in danger of being targeted by a criminal organization performing violent "grow rips."

“We believe there is an organized criminal group targeting all types of marijuana grow-ops in Mission. We’re concerned because we’ve observed a growing level of violence during grow rips,” said Mission RCMP's Cpl. Sharon Siluch.

Both private residences and outbuildings have been targeted by this group, with as many as 32 grow rips in 2011 alone. Of that number, 10 were violent.

Police have since laid charges against Kenneth W. Chudley, 26, for robbery, break and enter, aggravated assault, and unlawful confinement; Stefan Andre Morin, 27, for break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence; and Christopher Anthony Morgado, 24, with the same charges as Morin.

Criminals are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to detect the presence of marijuana grow operations, Siluch says, including:

• utilizing multiple vehicles and looks outs;

• communicating via two-way radios;

• employing reconnaissance techniques such as drilling holes into outbuilding and using “snake” cameras to monitor plant maturity in order to plan thefts;

• sneaking onto private property to monitor electrical meter readings;

• trespassing onto private property in order to investigate the prevalence of marijuana odours;

Once a marijuana grow operation has been located, the criminals have been prepared to use force in order to subdue occupants and steal crops, said Siluch. In two known cases the victims who resisted were shot, though they survived.

The grow rips have involved multiple suspects armed with weapons and tools such as firearms, bear spray, impact weapons (bats, machete, sword), and bindings, such as duct tape or plastic straps.

"We have reason to believe that there may be some licensed marijuana grow operators who have been victimized by this group, but who haven’t come forward to police,” said Siluch.

“We remind all persons involved in growing marijuana that police have a duty to respond and will aggressively investigate crimes against persons, which include robbery, assault and forcible confinement. Our goal is to stop these violent criminals before anyone else gets hurt.”

Mission RCMP are urging people to come forward to report any suspicious activity such as suspicious vehicles or unknown groups of people seen in or around properties, people talking on two-way radios, and strange activity on private property such as surveillance cameras being blocked, motion lights shut off or lights missing.

Although Siluch said the RCMP is warning marijuana grow operators about the potential for violence, she said illegal growers will still be pursued, their plants seized, and recommendations of charges forwarded to the Crown.

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