Det. Tom Gottas, of the narcotics division, said the biggest is the smell, but there's some other tips residents should know about as well.
Common Signs of Marijuana Grow Operations:
- Fans, scrubbers, and air fresheners running to mask the "intense robust organic" smell of marijuana
- Heavy traffic in the area of the house by foot, car and bike
- Groups of people staying short periods of time
- People coming at all hours
- Growing marijuana takes lots of power, so watch for extra power cords and generators
- Large amounts of trash, including vegetative trash in bags
- Large amounts of vegetative aids such as fertilizer and planters without seeing the landscape outside of the home to go with it
- Covered exterior vents like roof gables and no open windows to keep the marijuana smell contained
- Power and lights are used but you never see anyone collect the mail or see a person in the yard
Detectives say they're typically suspicious of windows covered with reflective coverings, fans constantly running exhaust air from what should be a bedroom window, basement windows covered with black plastic, subjects carrying potting soil and fertilizer into the house and garden hoses running into the house.
If you don't see large amounts of trash on the tree lawn that doesn't always mean there isn't any suspicious vegetative trash somewhere.
"A lot of these [people] now know we check their trash so they take the trimmings and clippings from the plants, in trash bags, and disgard them in a dumpster at some commercial or retail location," said Gottas. "Point being that if your neighbor is putting trash bags in his car, when they have regular trash service, and taking them somewhere, that might be suspicious."
The detectives said most of the mentioned activity happens at night.
"If it looks suspicious and is not what normal people do, there’s probably something not right about it. And the biggest hint or clue of all is the odor," he said. "A large scale marijuana grow has a distinctive, pungent odor that’s hard to describe, but very noticeable. Sometimes they manage to mask the odor pretty well, but typically at some spot around the house there is a noticeable smell."
Living in an apartment doesn't necessarily mean someone isn't growing pot either.
"...We have also seen small grows in closets in apartments. They are obviously not as large and as sophisticated, but they still grow some pretty nice plants," Gottas said. "We have also seen plants growing in gardens in backyards where they can fit in nicely with corn. Some have even had potted plants on their decks figuring the neighbors won’t or don’t know what marijuana plants look like and think nobody would grow it right out in the open."