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Old 09-16-2008, 06:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Its a bird, Its a plane, No wait.....ITS A CAMERA!!!

This story starts off about marijuana growers getting busted with cameras but goes in another direction after that and says how they are using cameras everywhere to bust people for anything. Makes me think twice about pissing on any random wall when I really need to go.

A lone man enters a grove of giant marijuana plants, yanks them out and stacks his harvest.

But a camera hidden near the illicit field caught it all. These days, even the ground can have eyes as police and pot growers engage in a high-tech battle.

Police on both sides of the state line use covert cameras to watch outdoor fields and arrest growers. Marijuana growers in some states battle the cameras by wearing identity-hiding masks as they work their fields. Some even install their own cameras.

It’s a fight that’s going on nationwide. The U.S. Forest Service this year even bought two drone airplanes to find pot fields in California forests.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation started using a few cameras in 1995 to watch fields and now has about a dozen of them, said Jeffrey Brandau, a KBI special agent in charge.

Thanks largely to the cameras, Brandau said, “Now it’s hard to find any outdoor groves — it’s like they disappeared.”

In 2000, Kansas police confiscated 2,795 cultivated outdoor plants. Last year, they found 1,674. And from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31 of this year, they recorded only eight such plants confiscated statewide, KBI numbers show.

Police think the bad guys have responded to their field cameras — and market forces — by moving indoors and growing far stronger pot. Now, as police turn their attention and high-tech tools to those indoor marijuana-growing operations, some growers are using increasingly sophisticated means to dodge them.

Sur-Tec Inc. in Lenexa sells the cameras only to governmental agencies. Its parent company, the Clarence C. Kelley Group, sells less-hardy versions to companies for private security.

The hardy version uses little power, withstands extreme temperatures and comes with a box the size of a lunch bucket that holds a computer video screen and a battery power unit. Mark on the screen with a stylus to set the area you want it to watch, set it for how you want it to signal you if someone enters the area, and you’re ready to go.

Connect up to four cameras to it and bury the box or put it in a tree stump, explained company vice president Todd Dupriest. The smallest camera is about the size of a microphone and has a lens the size of a quarter.

It could peek out from the ground, from a tree or a hollowed-out fencepost. The cameras can be set to avoid animals or tree branches that sway during storms.

Police in other parts of the country are setting them to activate by voice and hiding them in interrogation rooms, Dupriest said.

The cameras changed the way police went after outdoor pot fields. The days are over of officers hunkering down in the dirt, watching fields for days at a time and getting massive overtime pay, Brandau said.

“Those cameras have just saved us a ton of money and manpower and time,” Brandau said, and they’ve led to arrests more than nine times out of 10 that they were used.

It has been about two years since a grower spotted a camera, he said, but rats and squirrels also threaten the $11,500 units.

Criminals have burned them, ripped them apart or stolen them occasionally, he said, but “rats for some reason love the wire. Squirrels, too — we have to spray chili pepper on it.”

Still, Brandau says, “If they do a good job of planting those cameras, you can’t see them.”

Meanwhile, the cameras are spreading to even small towns. The company sold 366 systems — $4.2 million worth of gear— to the Department of Homeland Security last year for distribution to small law enforcement departments nationwide.

They’ll be used to watch bridges, power stations and for everything from drug houses to illegal dumping.

Sur-Tec is a privately held company that has seen sales soar in the last four years, Dupriest said.

“As long as the bad guys are around, we’ll be around,” he said.

But now the pot war is shifting indoors.

“If we knew the number of indoor growers,” Brandau said, “we would all be astonished.”

It’s safer to grow pot indoors, and marijuana grown without soil and nourished with carbon dioxide can be many times stronger, he said.

Kansas police confiscated 625 indoor pot plants last year and 1,099 so far this year, the KBI reports.

In Missouri, police last year eradicated 11,648 cultivated outdoor plants, down about 40 percent from the year before.

As for indoor plants, Missouri police confiscated 4,953 last year, more than twice as many as in 2006.

Last month, police in rural Missouri raided an indoor pot operation in a hidden bunker and confiscated as many as 150 plants. The marijuana was in all stages of growth for continuous harvests.

Brandau said that is typical of sophisticated indoor operations, where temperature, nutrients and the air is measured to best match rooms with pot at different stages of cultivation under high-power lights.

Sometimes police pick up surges in electric power use, Brandau said, but some growers use generators and some are good at stealing electric power with little trace.

Police use thermal imaging devices that can show hot infrared areas of high energy use from air or the ground, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled police must have probable cause to use them. That can come from high power use compared to the grower’s neighbors.

Growers sometimes build so far underground that infrared energy signatures can’t make it to the surface, Brandau said.

But the high-tech tools only go so far to catch indoor pot growers.

“Some of it is just neighbors calling in,” Brandau said.

Keith Stroup, legal counsel for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the situation in Kansas and Missouri is typical.

“As the government gets more sophisticated, so do the growers,” he said, and it would make more sense to legalize the plant and get massive tax revenue from it.

Brandau countered, “You won’t make a better employee, better parent or better anything with legalized marijuana.”

He is eager for the next weapon to come out against indoor labs, he said. The market for cameras and other high-tech tools seems secure.

Video: hxxp://tinyurl.com/63ddc2

hxxp://tinyurl.com/5ta27s
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