Marijuana Cultivation in British Columbia: Using spatial and social network analysis techniques to inform evidence-based policy and planning

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This dissertation provides evidence and direction for policy makers dealing with the issue of marijuana production in British Columbia (BC). This document provides a descriptive analysis of the "grow op" industry before moving into a spatial analysis of the effect of police tactical teams (green teams) on grow operations. The final chapters focus on the involvement of organized crime in the marijuana production industry and employ a social network analysis (SNA) framework to illustrate the involvement of different clusters of criminal associations. Using the case of Vietnamese drug p roduction as an example, SNA and geographic information systems (GIS) analyses techniques are combined to assess the spatial and social linkage patterns in statistical and visual terms. The descriptive analysis of police records shows that marijuana "grow ops" increased dramatically from 1997 through 2000, before levelling out by the end of the collection period in 2003. A significant increase in the number of suspects of Vietnamese origin was also noted. The police hypothesize that Vietnamese criminal organizations have effectively taken over the production of marijuana in certain jurisdictions and that they work with other criminal organizations (i.e. Hells Angels and Southeast Asian Groups) to distribute the drugs. The results suggest that those areas with specialized anti-grow (or "green") teams show a significant decrease in grow operations in their jurisdiction. Compared to the rate of increase in the period preceding green team implementation, the treatment jurisdict ions experienced an 82% decline in marijuana cultivation facil ities. Neighboring control areas experienced a 7% increase in grow operations post-treatment. The network analysis of drug production networks illustrates that the criminal networks involved in drug production are spatially constrained. It also shows that the distance between individuals in the drug production criminal network and their associates varies systematically with network characteristics (centrality measures) but not with demographics or criminal history variables. Of particular importance to police investigation into criminal organizations is the finding that central figures in the network, individuals high in betweenness, degree and closeness centrality, travel farther to associates and place themselves on the geographic periphery of the network habitat.

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School of Criminology - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Dissertation (Ph.D.)