BC Hydro’s new smart meters may help RMCP with busting marijuana grow ops

Elk Valley RCMP has busted three marijuana grow ops since April, 2012.

BC Hydro’s new smart meters may help local RCMP in busting marijuana grow operations.

BC Hydro recently began installation of 10,000 smart meters across the Elk Valley. Along with the new smart meters, BC Hydro created two new investigator positions in Cranbrook. Their primary objective is to detect and investigate hydro theft.

The new meters are equipped with a tamper detection mechanism.

“It is kind of like a pinball machine. It has a little tilt mechanism,” said Cindy Verschoor, communications manager for the smart metering program. “If somebody wiggles the meter or tries to remove it or tries to tamper with it, it will send us a signal. We will know immediately.”

BC Hydro will also be putting meters where they’ve never had them before, said Verschoor.

“That means we will be metering our feeder meters and our transformers. We will be able to tell how much electricity has been delivered to a certain area. And we’ll know how much we are billing the customers on the other side,” said Verschoor.

“If we identify an area where there is electricity going missing that’s unexplainable, not due to physics or street lights, then that instigates an investigation with the RCMP,” said Verschoor.

BC Hydro has also taken steps to prevent people from hacking into the grid system and changing the meter readings remotely.

“It starts with data being encrypted similar to online banking. It is all transmitted through secure channels and is processed in secure facilities,” said Verschoor.

BC Hydro hired Texas-based South West Research Institute to be “white hat hackers.”

“Their job is to try to break into our system. These are the same people who work for the US Department of Defense. They weren’t actually able to get in through the first layer of security,” said Verschoor.

Sgt. Dave Dubnyk with the Elk Valley RCMP said they will be working with BC Hydro when the need arises.

“Often, hydro theft and marijuana grow operations go hand in hand. When appropriate we will work with those investigators,” said Dubnyk.

At the July 16 Sparwood council meeting, Dubnyk presented the Elk Valley RCMP’s first quarterly report.

Dubnyk said there have been three marijuana grow operation busts in the Elk Valley in this fiscal year, which runs from April 2012 to March 2013.

“Every year we do a consultation with all our mayors and councils to see what everybody’s main concerns are for policing priorities,” said Dubnyk. “Inevitably, in every town drug and alcohol abuse is always high on the list.”

One of the Elk Valley RCMP’s initiatives is to try and concentrate more on the detection and eradication of marijuana grow operations. Dubnyk said they have set a benchmark goal of six busts in the year, but they will not stop at that.

“We have more of a concentrated effort on getting out and getting the information from people on the street and then once we have the information, making sure we act on it in a timely manner,” said Dubnyk.

Dubnyk urges anyone who suspects or knows about marijuana grow operations to contact their local RCMP detachment or call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).