VPD to use criminals' marijuana profits and assets to fight crime
Organized crime in Vancouver is extensive, often sophisticated, and constantly adapting to avoid arrest and capture. As a police department and a society, we have to explore every possible method and deterrent to rid our community of this threat to public safety.
One form of organized crime is the proliferation of factory marijuana grows in Vancouver. For the owners of these grows, it is all about creating an easy, untaxed, very lucrative income stream from the production of marijuana. In short, it's all about money.
Ideally, we want to arrest the operators and put them in jail. However, in the vast majority of cases, the evidence gathered will not support a criminal charge. But what it does support is a very effective method to deprive the criminals of their profits and some of their assets.
A house or building used to grow marijuana can be seized under the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Act. Not only does this hit the criminals where it truly hurts, but the sweet irony is that their own money can then be used to fight crime.
The forfeiture of the proceeds of the sale of this house represents just one of about 40 houses presently restrained through criminal processes or referred to the Civil Forfeiture Office by the Vancouver Police Department. The VPD has embarked on an aggressive campaign to deprive criminals of their property if they use that property in the commission of an offence.
Asset forfeiture is not a new concept in criminal law, however, the establishment of civil forfeiture legislation has given law enforcement an additional, potent tool which creates an additional deterrent to committing crime within the City of Vancouver.
The residence at 1491 West 53rd Avenue was the subject of a search warrant on May 21, 2009, as part of an investigation into a network of grow-operations throughout the city. This investigation is ongoing. As with many criminal enterprises of this nature, the true owner of the property was not the person on title.
Investigators initially conducted a criminal investigation, however, it became apparent that criminal charges would be difficult to prove given the convoluted nature of the beneficial ownership. Fortunately, we knew there was another avenue available to us, and the matter was referred to the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office for their review.
As I mentioned earlier, the VPD has been very aggressive in removing assets from criminals, and will continue to do so. By adopting this position, the VPD has reduced the number of grow-ops from 300-400 five years ago to 51 in 2010. The most dramatic drop occurred in 2006-2007 when the civil forfeiture legislation first came into effect.
There is a clear relationship between removing assets from bad guys and a reduction in certain types of crime. Our message is clear: if you commit a crime in Vancouver and that crime has anything to do with your car, boat or any other asset, we will take it.