Public tips have led to a bumper crop of grow op busts in the Pemberton area.
A five month RCMP investigation of a property in the 9600 block of Devine Street in DArcy revealed a sophisticated underground bunker style marijuana grow operation. The investigation was conducted in partnership with Stlatlimx Tribal Police.
RCMP spokesperson Cst. Devon Jones says the lengthy investigation period was necessary in order to acquire enough evidence to support a search warrant.
"Search warrants arent something you can get by contacting a (Justice of the Peace) and saying, We want to enter their residence," explained Jones.
Inside the bunker, located under two mobile homes, RCMP discovered and seized 150 large marijuana plants, several bags of the cultivated product and growing equipment.
Due to the perilous state of wiring and the rerouting of electricity to the bunker, B.C. Hydro had to be called in to turn off the power.
A 40-year-old man and a 36-year-old woman, whom police identified as being responsible for the grow op, turned themselves into the police on Sept. 5. The pair cannot be identified until formal charges are laid. Criminal charges of production of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking are pending.
Charges are also pending for a 32-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman arrested onsite at a grow op in the Owl Ridge subdivision on Sept. 2. The operation was uncovered as a result of an RCMP airplane survey of the area located north of Pemberton. While investigating the outdoor grow op, police grew suspicious of a detached garage on the property. A search warrant was obtained and executed, leading to the discovery of second operation on the property. Along with plants and equipment, police also seized a number of unregistered firearms, packaged marijuana and hashish inside the residence.
While he did not have specific information pertaining to the type of guns that were on the premises, Jones confirmed that separate charges would be laid in conjunction with the unregistered firearms. Until formal charges are made, names of the suspects cannot be released.
The Sept. 2 air survey of the area, which lasted four hours, revealed an additional four outdoor operations in the forested area between Whistler and Lillooet. All totalled, police destroyed 1,000 marijuana plants discovered on the five sites.
Jones would not put a street value on the marijuana, saying that it is RCMP policy not to as they feel it glorifies drugs.
While grow ops are not an official priority with the RCMP, the criminal element that is sometimes associated with grow ops is a matter concern and because of issues such as organized crime involvement substantial resources are applied to such investigations.
"We have a number of active files ongoing within the Whistler-Pemberton RCMP," Jones said.
He added there is no current estimate of functional grow ops within the Whistler-Pemberton jurisdiction.
While unregistered firearms were found on the premises of the Owl Ridge property, the RCMP officer said that defending a grow op by violent means is not a trend he has seen in the area. Nor does he believe that most grow ops represent a primary income for people.
"These people are people who have normal day to day lives. They often have full time jobs. This is something they would do, and I hate to use the word, almost as a hobby. Its something they would do on the side, definitely," said Jones.
Suspects in both the DArcy and Owl Ridge grow op busts are scheduled to appear in Pemberton Provincial Court on Nov. 3, 2005.
No arrests have been made in conjunction with the four other outdoor sites.