Co-operators General Insurance Company Loss Prevention Bulletins GROW-OPS AND METH LABS What is a Grow Operation? A grow operation, or 'grow-op' is the illegal growing and cultivation activities of usually marijuana or other controlled drugs/substances. It can cost $5,000 - $20,000 to equip a commercial marijuana grow operation with the necessary items, and take 2 to 3 months to harvest a crop. Most growers will not take the chance of losing their investment and crop if they think the landlord or owner is going to check on the property on a regular basis. In some cases, the landlord has rented the property with the knowledge that an illegal activity is taking place, but in most cases, the landlord or owner is not aware of the operation and is surprised to find thousands of dollars in damage to the property caused by commercial grow-ops. In addition to being an illicit act, these grow-ops pose significant public safety issues and fire hazards. ! Diverting electrical service and tampering with wiring can pose a serious fire threat. With the use of exhaust fans, the fire can be accelerated. A fire can involve not only the property, but neighbouring homes as well. ! Poisonous gases are created or diverted when furnaces are re-vented to circulate air to feed the marijuana plants. ! An increase in violence is noticed when the ability to make a massive profit prompts the growers to arm themselves to protect their operations. 1 in 8 homicides in BC are linked to the grow-op industry. ! Structural damage to homes is often found, for example, the need to re-wire the electrical service through a foundation wall. Mold and fungus growth caused from the condensation of a grow-op can quickly damage the structure to the point where repairs cannot be made. What is Methamphetamine? Methamphetamine (meth) is an extremely toxic and powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Some of the common street names include speed, ice, crystal, jib, glass, or crank. Meth most often looks like small pieces of glass and can be clear, white, yellow, brown, green, or pink. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or swallowed. Meth users can show signs of agitation, or may speak excitedly. They can also exhibit a lack of appetite, severe insomnia, paranoia, and even violence. Meth is made in secret labs that can be located in houses, garages, apartments, sheds, barns, hotel rooms, and even in the trunks of cars. There can be a serious hazard when it is being produced or 'cooked'. Many of the chemicals involved in the cooking process can be flammable, explosive, corrosive, or carcinogenic. In addition, the residues and toxins that remain after the cook are a ticking time bomb, which can cause serious, even fatal, health concerns. You may be living next door or down the block from a grow-op or meth lab and not suspect a thing. Following are some tips and telltale signs that may indicate such an operation. Never approach a suspected property or individuals who may be associated, they can be very protective of their investment. Contact the proper authorities. LP046 (06/05) Tips and Telltale signs - For Property Managers/Owners Get to Know Your Neighbours ! As a property owner or rental owner, let the neighbours know that your property is a rental unit. ! Ask them to keep an eye on your property and provide them with your phone number so they can contact you if suspicions arise. Screen Prospective Tenants ! Ask for and check their references. ! Advise them that you will be checking on the property regularly (with proper notice). ! Let them know that you have regular contact with the neighbours. ! Confirm the names and phone numbers of the tenants who will be residing at your property, and who will be paying for telephone and utility bills. ! Keep a record of your tenants' vehicles and licence numbers. Check Your Property - at least monthly ! A simple walk around the exterior of the property is usually sufficient, in most cases, to detect signs of a grow-op. If you discover some of the "what to look for" signs, ask the tenant for an explanation and consider giving notice for a more thorough inspection or contacting the police. At no time should you put yourself in potential danger - if you have genuine concerns, contact the police. ! Conduct internal inspections of the property in accordance with your local Landlord/Tenant Acts. ! Absentee or Offshore landlords/owners should consider having an agent, friend, or relative check the property on their behalf. What to Look For - As a Property Manager/Owner or Neighbor Know what some of the warning signs are: ! Homes that do not appear to be lived in - may have little or no furniture in the main living areas, but have occasional visitors (1 or 2 times per week) and at unusual hours. ! Windows (particularly in basements) that are always dark, boarded up, or otherwise blacked out. These windows may also show signs of excessive condensation. ! "Skunk" smell, or air fresheners (fabric softener) odours, chemical smells such as ammonia or acetone. ! Humming noises, or motorized fan-like noises. ! Discarded potting soil, small plastic "bedding" plant-type pots, one-gallon plastic pots, scraps of heavy black plastic, 4" & 6" dryer hose, cut pieces of garden hose. ! People bringing and taking away items in garbage bags. The lack of regular garbage being put out on "garbage days". Excessive garbage items such as drain cleaners, solvents, lye, iodine, plastic sheeting, bags or piping, fertilizer bags or soil, red-stained coffee filters, bed sheets or towels. ! A house rooftop with no snow on it, when the roofs of surrounding houses are snow-covered. ! Unfriendly and/or secretive neighbours, or only seen while leaving the building to smoke, unusual amounts of traffic or suspicious comings and goings. ! A tenant who insists on paying the rent in cash, arranges to meet you away from the property, or has no known source of income and has an expensive car and/or cell phone. In this bulletin, the reader is provided with information about loss control issues. The bulletin is not a substitute for a thorough loss control assessment. In those situations where there is concern about issues raised in this bulletin the reader should seek professional advice. The Co-operators will not be responsible to the reader for any loss or damage, which the reader may suffer because of having relied on this publication.