How Cops Find Grow Houses

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    Grow House Detection Methods And The Law

    Weed is legalized in many states, in the US, and is no longer considered taboo by mainstream society. (Hell, my 80-year-old parents don’t even care about neighborhood dispensaries) The feds though still consider weed to be a criminal activity. And in many states, because of forfeiture laws, catching illicit marijuana grow operations is a priority for the state police and the US Federal Government.

    The main reason for this is that civil forfeiture laws are so draconian that a grower’s property, even without a conviction, might be confiscated. Even if you are growing cannabis for yourself, your grow room is not safe from the police. (I.E. An 81-year-lady was arrested for growing a single plant that was found by a police helicopter that was on a Cannabis Eradication Task Force.

    So, the questions that need to be addressed are the following:

    • How do cops find indoor growing operations?
    • What can a cop be prevented from discovering your indoor garden?

    How Does Law Enforcement Find A Grow House?

    The first step toward the police investigating property for indoor grow op is a tip. Once the police receive that tip, an investigation will likely soon follow. Once enough evidence gathered a search warrant may then be issued

    Below are a few common signs of an illegal indoor grow room.

    Unusually High Energy Bill

    Energy providers when seeing unusually high energy usage may report you to the police. Whether or not you are reported depends upon the power company and/or where you live.

    Is This Legal? You may wonder if it is legal for a power company, without permission, to give law enforcement officers energy usage information. The answer is, unfortunately, yes. Unlike medical records, energy and utility usage is not confidential. Therefore, the utility companies can report you using excess electricity even when you were not stealing power or trying to somehow bypass the electric meter.

    Suspicious Activity

    A typical house in a suburban or city location will not look like a survival bunker or compound. For example, most residential homes do not have the following:

    • Blacked-out windows
    • A Beware of Dog” sign with no dog
    • Suspicious packages., I.E Amazon prime packages containing led lights, grow tents, etc. at your front door)

    Unusual Living Conditions

    Larger, and often organized crime-influenced grow often use a rental property solely dedicated to indoor growing that does not have the typical signs of a family or even a single person residing. Examples of this would be:

    • Neighbors never see anyone bring in groceries
    • People entering the house looking like they are going to and from work and not going home
    • No common signs indicating that people actually live at the place


    Of course, weed smell is an obvious sign of a grow house. That is why a quality Co2 filter is essential.


    Electrical lights, fans, and other sounds are caused by growing equipment.

    Electricity Theft

    To hide their footprint, illegal grow operations have been known to tap into the main power cable, bypass the meter, and then steal electricity. This saves money on electricity and also makes it harder for an energy company to detect abnormal energy usage. When this happens the power companies lose money when the electricity is not paid, and also damage often occurs from stealing electricity. If power companies find out who is stealing the electricity and they will then report the theft to the local authorities.


    For optimum results a grow house should be kept at between 40-50 RH. This excess humidity often results in windows being fogged over.

    Search Warrant

    When Might A Search Warrant May Be Granted

    These are just a few of the signs that could indicate a grow room. For the full list, CLICK HERE. Other than perhaps excess power use or electricity theft, a single one of these signs will likely not justify a search warrant being issued. However, the more signs of a grow house that appear, the more likely a judge may issue the search warrant.

    How Do Cops Find Grow Houses?

    Assuming a search warrant is granted; how can the police find evidence

    Infrared Tech and Law Enforcement

    In the 1990s law enforcement officers started using thermal cameras to:

    Capture Criminals-No matter how dark it is or how hidden; a thermal camera can detect heat  emitted off any living being

    Detect Hidden Objects-Thermal cameras can find secret compartments containing illegal contraband.

    ● Many, other uses . . . CLICK HERE, for the complete list.

    Of course, a thermal, heat detection camera can detect grow room’s electric heat signature. (Heat Signatures is the thermal heat that an object gives off. I.E., HID grow lighting)

    How Do Thermal Cameras Work?

    Every living object emits heat or infrared radiation. Thermal cameras detect this heat that is called a heat signature. The warmer an object is, the more I.R. radiation it emits. Grow houses and grow room equipment, especially when using HID growl lights, give off a tremendous amount of heat, which thermal cameras can detect. That evidence received from the camera is then used by the police for probable cause to get a warrant. Upon getting a warrant the police will be able to go inside your property to search and find your cannabis plants.

    Is It Legal For Police To Use Helicopters to Visually Detect Weed?

    Police Helicopter-Thermal Imaging

    The answer is going to annoy you: “It Depends.” First of all, if you are growing traditionally outdoors with no greenhouse, the U.S. Supreme court has deemed that it is legal for helicopters to be used to find cannabis. The qualification is that the illegal substance must be in plain view. The decision was decided in Florida V. Riley, where an arrest was considered lawful when a police helicopter saw plants grown in a greenhouse. The police, via a tip, suspected that a house was the sight of a growing operation. They could not see any weed at street level as the greenhouse windows were covered. So, the police then used a helicopter to search for weed. Cannabis plants were subsequently seen through two missing panels on the roof that a helicopter could only see in plain view.

    On the other hand, cannabis plants inside a house are not considered plain view. Therefore, without first getting a warrant, the police cannot use a thermal camera to detect illegal activity. (Assuming that law enforcement does not have any other reputable evidence that you are illegally growing) Kylo v. the United States is the case.

    When is a Warrant Needed?

    If your plants are hidden in your house, a police officer, without other evidence, cannot search your house by using a thermal, I.R., camera.

    Per the U.S. Supreme court, Kylo v. the United States using infrared cameras to search for anything is a search. And the fourth amendment requires that there must be a probable cause of a search. This means that, before a warrant is granted, a cop must have a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed.

    The heat signature is just one signal of an illicit grow op. As stated earlier, several other signs also can indicate a grow room. For example, a utility company reports you for using too much electricity, or a neighbor reports suspicious suspicious activity. The more signs that happen; the more likely it will be that a warrant issued.

    Should A Small Time, Home-Hobbyist, Grower

    Worry About Being Targeted?

    Because of civil forfeiture laws, law enforcement agencies have an incentive to target anyone they can for growing weed. So, it is not just organized crime or large-scale cannabis drug trafficking operations that are targeted. Additionally, the police may think that you are running a large cannabis growing operation and later discover that you are growing a few plants. It also can simply be bad luck in that a nosy neighbor reports a home growing operation, an ex reports a small-time, personal use growing operation.

    Can Helicopters Spot one Plant?-The answer is yes. And it depends upon how lucky or unlucky you are or whether you were just in the wrong place at the right time. An example of this is a joint operation (several other plants from other individuals were also confiscated) between state police and national guard helicopter discovered and took a single pot plant, that was in plain sight in her garden. The plant was grown by an 81-year old woman for medical purposes.

    How Can I Prevent Detection?


    My first suggestion, which of course is impractical for the vast majority, and may seem like a smart-ass answer. But, to be safer, you could move where it is legal to grow weed. Don’t assume though that you can grow weed just because the state has legalized cannabis. For example, in Nevada, weed is legal, both recreationally and for medical use. But, unless you live 25 miles away from a licensed dispensary, it is illegal for you to grow.

    LED Lights

    LED grow lights will not shield you from law enforcement thermal imaging cameras. LED lights do though give off less heat, which means that electricity will be used less, and you will have a lesser chance of being detected.

    Use Heat Signature Shields Technology

    Do Grow Tents Stop Helicopter Detecting Heat?-If you are serious about blocking your heat signature, you should look into heat shielding fabric. C3 Anti-Detection Foil, for your, grow tent fabric is a popular, heat shielding fabric. I have an entire article on C3 material.

    Final Thoughts

    Thermal image or heat detection, I.R., cameras are just one piece of technology. It would not be surprising that even more advanced surveillance technology was being developed as this article was being written. So, just because you purchased a product that is supposedly guaranteed now to shield your heat signature does not mean that the same product will work in the next year, month, or even next day.

    If you are not able to move where you can legally grow. In that case, you need to make a cost-benefit analysis on whether or not you are willing to be punished for a growing. The home grower also needs to make sure to know the cannabis cultivation laws where they live. For example, in some areas, a one plant difference could mean the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony


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