Toronto Star, March 12, 2004
By Cal Millar
After a huge eight-unit marijuana operation was found in their Parkdale apartment building last weekend, tenants have given police tips that helped uncover grow-ops in two other units yesterday.
The weekend discovery has spurred tenants to give police more help and woke up many to what was happening at the West Lodge Ave. building, said police Detective Howie Page.
"I wouldn't say it was willful blindness on their part," he said. "It was probably a na´ve-ness which anybody might have. The publicity kind of woke them up."
Page said media reports warned residents of the dangers they faced: anything from a fire hazard to potential violence if those involved in the grow operation had been confronted by a rival gang.
"They are absolutely in danger," he said.
Page said tenants have displayed a change in attitude and have been co-operating with investigators, telling detectives about unusual activity at one apartment where people were seen coming and going at night.
Police have also been examining the outside of the apartment building, looking for tips that might reveal a unit used for a grow-op.
Detectives scanned apartment balconies of both buildings looking for telltale signs such as fake air-conditioning units or blocked windows that might indicate marijuana was being cultivated inside, Page said.
As a result, they found the two other units yesterday where marijuana was being grown. The apartments were filled wall-to-wall with plants and the balcony doors nailed shut, Page said.
"If you ever had to look for an escape route, you couldn't get out," he said.
Page said there was no furniture in the apartments, other than a couple of stools and only small amounts of food. He said high-voltage hydro wires were strung throughout the units and oversized pipes vented the fumes."They were living, eating and sleeping among the plants," Page said.
No one was in the units when police staged their raids, but Page said detectives have gathered information to help them identify those involved in the grow operations.
When police entered one of the units, they discovered that growers had removed a considerable amount of the sophisticated equipment but hadn't taken some 200 mature plants.
Page said it appears growers had been scared off as a result of the weekend raid and were trying to move everything out knowing that police were working nearby.
He said they probably heard tenants were talking to police in the building, but they couldn't get everything out without being noticed. "They couldn't carry out the plants knowing we'd hear about it."