Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Weekly Tip - Indicators of Illicit Marijuana Grow Houses

Illicit marijuana grow houses are houses or other locations where the majority of the location is converted for the purposes of growing marijuana indoors and less readily detected by law enforcement. These locations are often nestled in a residential neighborhood or local business complex. The Arcadia Police Department has investigated 14 such locations since January 2010.

No matter your opinion on the use of marijuana, this type of operation is dangerous, not only to the grower, but also a danger to neighbors, utility workers, and public safety personnel.  A typical indoor grow operation consumes many times the electricity compared to like size residences or other locations due to the high number of grow lights, ballasts, and other equipment inside the location. Most often, the electrical meters are bypassed in order to steal electricity and access higher electricity loads.

The grower connects directly into the utility lines, installing makeshift electrical panels and wiring inside the location. Not only does this pose a risk of electrocution, but also poses a high fire risk. In 2014, an illicit indoor grow was discovered after police and fire responded on a call of a roof fire at an Arcadia home. The high electrical load associated with the indoor grow lead to a transformer fire in the rear yard of the house.

These locations also contain liquid nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals, posing a risk for exposure and pollution to the surrounding grounds. One converted Arcadia home was red tagged after growers placed fertilizer and other material directly on the floor of several rooms, allowing it to seep into the floors, walls, and ceilings of the home.

Excess carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are threats depending on how the ventilation, or lack thereof, has been used in the location. Molds can develop in the location due to excess humidity and moisture, posing a risk to grower, occupants, and public safety.

Possible Indicators of Illicit Marijuana Grow Houses:
  • Often a rented or leased property
  • Subjects "move in" with little furnishings
  • Access to location is primarily through closed garage to load and unload
  • Windows are closed, covered, and have possible condensation
  • Bright light from high intensity lighting possibly visible through windows
  • Additional vents or drain pipes added to the structure
  • Accumulation of waste inside or outside (large trash bags, fertilizer containers)
  • Lack of consistent and typical use of trash containers being placed at the curb
  • Large lighting hoods, ballasts, electrical panels, fans, large cylinder filters being carried into the home or visible
  • Strong or unusual odors
  • Drilling, hammering, or other construction noises, but lacking signs of a remodel or construction workers
  • Humming or fan noise from inside of the location
  • Unusual, erratic, or behavior "not the norm" of persons at location, coming or going

Tips for Landlords:
  • Look into the credit history, references, and verify identity of clients
  • Have language in rental/lease contract allowing access to inspect property
  • Check your property regularly - monthly
  • Be leery of cash only payments or unverified "business" checks

Help us remove these dangerous and unlawful locations from our City. If you See Something, Say Something!


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