THIS week’s drug busts in otherwise quiet streets and in “normal” looking houses highlight the prevalence and risks of “grow houses” in the Ballarat community.
Two houses, one in Learmonth and another at Alfredton, were raided by Ballarat police in recent days, where more than $1 million worth of mature cannabis plants were seized.
The houses, normal to the passer-by, were completely reconfigured inside to support the commercial growth of hundreds of cannabis plants.
Pipes were changed, wiring was re-configured and interiors were gutted to make way for tens of thousands of dollars worth of hydroponic equipment.
Police say the bedrooms, living areas and others parts of the house were re-purposed to support the significant numbers of plants grown inside.
Investigators are unsure about the ownership of both houses, but say that grow-houses are a significant problem for the real-estate industry.
Typically, houses are rented out then tenants “re-decorate” for the purposes of growing the drug.
“I doubt anyone lived there,” said Inspector Greg Payne of the Alfredton house raided this week.
“There was no furniture, the place was completely set-up for the purposes of being a hydroponic grow-house.”
Inspector Payne said grow-houses were an issue right across Victoria and Australia.
“People think that they can utilise the resources of a house, being electricity and water, and turn it into a hydroponic facility,” he said.
“They can put in false walls, re-wire all the electrics, redirect the plumbing and black-out the windows.”
Inspector Payne said there were things people could look for to report
potential grow-houses to police.
“People should be on the look-out for blacked-out windows, very little people-movement and usually neighbours will be able to smell cannabis, or chemicals, coming from
the house,” he said.
“People should also be on the lookout for signs of light coming through cracks in the windows or other parts of the house, and be wary of lighting that is on
24 hours a day.”