After a year-long investigation, the Sunshine Coast RCMP seized 400 plants from a marijuana grow operation located in an underground bunker on Gambier Island Wednesday morning.
Nine RCMP officers, including two members from Forensic Identification Services in Vancouver, executed a search warrant and began searching a property on Mountain Road around 8 a.m. Feb. 4. One adult male was arrested at the scene, taken off the island by an RCMP Zodiac and brought to the Sechelt detachment. Police seized the plants, some equipment, a shotgun with ammunition and a loaded .45 calibre handgun during the search.
By mid-afternoon, word of the arrest had spread to most of the locals who live in the small community of approximately 130 residents. They watched with curiosity as police travelled back and forth to the dock in a borrowed truck. Const. Andy Cook said the bunker had been constructed over the course of a year, with a small shed placed on top to conceal the entrance and venting area. Police also searched numerous other structures on the property including a buried semi-trailer that was being prepared for use as a marijuana grow operation.
"This is the first bunker grow located on the Sunshine Coast, and police are following leads on other, similar type operations in this area," Cook said. "Properties used for these types of operations are frequently purchased for the sole purpose of growing marijuana. These types of clandestine, large-scale marijuana grow operations produce large quantities of marijuana, which is sold for a large profit."
When asked how the RCMP was tipped off to the operation, Cook said it was the result of good police work on the part of a member who no longer works on the Sunshine Coast.
"It became an address of interest when the containers and trailer came over a year ago," Cook said.
Solicitor General Rich Coleman recently stated that targeting of marijuana grow operations will be a priority in this province. Cook echoed those sentiments, saying the Sunshine Coast RCMP will be targeting marijuana grow operations in this area in 2004, with particular focus being placed on large-scale operations and organized groups of growers and buyers.
"The Sunshine Coast RCMP Street Crew was formed late in 2003. Their mandate includes targeting of marijuana grow operations, drug dealers and property crime offenders," Cook said.
The accused man will appear in Sechelt provincial court April 27 to face charges of production of a controlled substance as well as weapon offences. Police are also seeking a second male in connection with the operation.