Green, green grass of unoccupied homes

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REPORTS of Guardia Civil or police raids on illicit marihuana plantations now appear on a weekly basis.
Almeria, the Costa Sol and the Costa Blanca are ideal for small scale cultivation that is nevertheless too large for the authorities to believe “personal consumption” excuses. The economic crisis has prompted the grow-your-own trend but so, too, has greater vigilance along the coast, police said.
In Almeria the police and Guardia Civil increasingly find unoccupied properties are being used by squatter-growers. The provincial press recently cited the case of an owner of a usually unoccupied house in a small town who returned to find a marihuana plantation inside it.
The grower, who did not live there, had hot-wired the house to a street lamp in order to bypass the electricity meter. Not only did this sidestep paying for a round-the-clock supply for force-growing the crop but it ensured that the owner would not pay close attention to higher than usual Endesa bills.
The squatters use sophisticated heating and ventilation and are knowledgeable about drip-irrigation and biological pest control, police said.
They are choosing empty properties, generally second homes, confident that unless they are caught red-handed or are kept under surveillance, nothing links them to the plantations.
Occasionally they unwittingly give themselves away, as happened when the emergency services were called to put out a fire in a Roquetas house. They discovered a marihuana plantation and found that the fire was caused by an electricity overload in the equipment used to force-grow it.


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