Single family homes with attached garages are commonly sought by middle class families migrating to Scarborough, but they’re not the only ones interested.
They’re also being targeted for marijuana grow operations.
A Google map from a Toronto newspaper depicting grow operations in the city during 2007 shows a high volume discovered within the east Scarborough area.
Det. Sgt. David Malcolm of the Toronto drug squad says the homes are meeting certain criteria for helping conceal illegal activity.
“It’s the style of the home, it’s the absentee landlords, and it’s the rental properties,” said Malcolm, the officer in charge of the grow teams who adds these operators want attached garages so they can drive their vehicles directly into an enclosed area.
“Either the home has a door connecting from the garage or they punch a hole directly into the basement through the foundation in order to get all the equipment that they require into the home unobserved,” he said.
Furthermore, properties being targeted are those owned predominantly by baby boomers that have either inherited houses or purchased them and now rent them out for real estate purposes.
Often these landlords aren’t monitoring the properties as closely as they should be which leaves them vulnerable to grow op activity, Malcolm says.
“We have been discovering and dismantling a grow op every working day of the week for an entire year,” he says. “Our average is around 250 to 260 for the entire year for the city of Toronto.”
Although student housing is predominant in East Scarborough, Malcolm is adamant that grow ops aren’t happening in these student rooming houses, firstly because living area is small and secondly because students are more closely watched by landlords.
“With marijuana grow ops we’re not talking about some student that has four or five plants growing on his window ledge,” Malcolm says. “We’re talking about the one that has three, four, five hundred plants in it.”
The average bust size is somewhere between 300 to 400 plants, depending on the progress of the operators.
If the grow op is attached to a townhouse or a link home, health issues can be a concern for neighbours.
“It depends on the level of mould, the level of contamination and the chemicals they are using,” Malcolm says.
Malcolm believes that long term effects of discovered grow op houses could effect area property values, as does Coun. Ron Moeser.
“I know it affects the property value of the house itself because they have to identify that it was a grow op,” Moeser says.
Moeser also says the discovery of such operations makes neighbours feel very uncomfortable, and can affect many involved, especially those that own the property and their immediate family.
As more are discovered community members are spotting tell-tale signs of grow operations such as no snow on the roof during winter, a result of increased heat used in the growing process.
“Once the community becomes aware of what to look for there is a much more proactive role from them,” Moeser says.
Additional signs are new, and often oversized, external venting systems installed on the roof, as well as possible sparking at hydro poles because they are stealing utilities, and holes dug where the hydro lines come into the house.
Neglect such as a lack of grounds keeping, buildup of mail, and no visible inhabitants are other signs, Malcolm says.