Police Won't Use Satellites To Find Drugs

Police Won't Use Satellites To Find Drugs
Posted by CN Staff on March 02, 2003 at 07:33:25 PT
By Jim Bronskill, The Ottawa Citizen 
Source: Ottawa Citizen 
Canadian police are no longer high on the idea of using space satellites to detect illicit marijuana fields. Following a trial of the experimental method in British Columbia, the RCMP and other law enforcement officials have yet to be persuaded the advanced tools can easily expose illegal marijuana production.The technique has proved to be of limited use in Canada because marijuana crops are often disguised among legitimate fields. In addition, increasingly large amounts of the plant are being cultivated indoors.
"In Canada, the problem that we've encountered is the mixture of cannabis in with traditional crops such as fields of corn and things of that nature," said Paul Kennedy, senior assistant deputy solicitor general. "Satellite imagery is not going to really help you."In early March 2000, the RCMP's drug enforcement branch in B.C. began discussions with Radarsat International of Richmond, B.C., about using the technology to zero in on crops under a cannabis eradication program known as Operation Sabot.The national police force had relied on sometimes spotty intelligence to guide aircraft supplied by the Defence Department to ferret out marijuana crops. In 1999, an eight-day eradication mission cost the RCMP about $19,000, excluding fees for use of the aircraft.Under the experimental approach, officials tried using high-resolution satellite imagery, together with other data and special geographic mapping techniques, to identify probable crop sites at an early stage.In August 2000, the project team acquired images of four sites in the southern interior of B.C. -- Seymour Arm, Slocan Valley, Upper Kettle and Christina Lake -- using the Ikonos high-resolution satellite, equipped with state-of-the art sensors capable of capturing pictures that reveal objects as small as four metres in diameter.However, in viewing some of the images it was difficult to identify marijuana plants, which closely resembled surrounding wetland vegetation.The results, although inconclusive, showed promise. A report on the project said it was difficult to pin down the potential cost savings of using the method, but "it is very likely to reduce the amount of flight time required" to locate illicit crops.A follow-up study involving Radarsat and the Canadian Space Agency was completed last December.But it seems the RCMP and Solicitor General's Department aren't convinced the method is worth pursuing in heavily forested areas of Canada."We're still doing the traditional aerial surveillance with our helicopters based out of Vancouver and Victoria," said Cpl. Grant Learned, a B.C.-based RCMP spokesman. "But no one here is working on anything that deals with satellite imaging."Mr. Kennedy said the space-based method is more suited to the "large swaths of land" used to cultivate plants for cocaine and heroin production in countries like Bolivia and Colombia.Another key consideration is that a large portion of the approximately 800 tonnes of marijuana grown annually in Canada is cultivated indoors, escaping satellite detection.Police aircraft outfitted with special cameras have been used in Canada to detect indoor marijuana growing operations based on the heat emanating from a home. In January, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that police require a warrant to employ the technique since it amounts to conducting a search of a residence.Note: Advanced technique of limited use, as many marijuana crops hidden in legitimate fields or grown indoor.Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)Author: Jim Bronskill, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Sunday, March 02, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Ottawa CitizenContact: letters thecitizen.southam.caWebsite: Related Articles:Plugging a Very Porous Northern Border in on Border Pot Smugglers
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Comment #1 posted by Big Trees on March 04, 2003 at 19:44:03 PT
Where does it stop?
The man is always watching if they can watch your crop from space how long before they can watch YOU from space?
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