A Coquitlam councillor apologized to the families Tuesday whose homes were targeted by the city on suspicion of having a grow-op -- but none was found.

Homes that were inspected for grow-ops because of electricity spikes shouldn't be slammed with fines for other matters such as plumbing problems, said Councillor Richard Stewart.

"I've spoken to staff and councillors and I want a more focused approach and I'm proposing we go in and look for one thing," said Stewart.

CTV News has reported that there are several people whose homes were entered because inspectors say that their electricity spiked unexpectedly -- a sign of improper use of power that is characteristic of jury-rigged hydroponics in marijuana grow-operations.

But the public safety inspection program was designed to shut down grow-ops, not nail homeowners for bylaw infractions, said Stewart.

"I don't want it ever to be perceived as a witch-hunt for every other kind of bylaw infraction," said Stewart.

"For those people I want to apologize," said Stewart.

Adrian Smith was inspected by the city on the strength of his electricity readings. He didn't have a grow-op, but inspectors saw what they deemed to be problems.

"Then they gave me this fine, $500," said Smith. "But they still insisted on cutting power. I begged them to change their mind, but they wouldn't," he said.

Inspectors claimed the wiring had been tampered with.

"I was furious, my electrician was furious," said Smith. The fines mounted to a whopping $15,000.

That's a similar story with Bryan and Selina Prevost, and Drew Smith, who were both slammed with huge fines after grow-op inspections found unrelated problems.

One lawsuit has already been filed.

The program does catch real grow-ops as well.

In the last six months of 2007, Coquitlam's public safety inspection team entered 128 homes on the strength of electricity data. They found 88 grow-ops, suspected 24 more -- and left 14 families wondering why they had entered into the houses in the first place.

And some neighbours are worried that the city could lose a valuable tool to fight crime.

"We started smelling the fumes and noticed unusual activity to and from property and that's when we clued in that there was a grow-op there," said Caroline Mydske, who also lives in Coquitlam.

"I would hate to see something like that go away and I think that they need to fine-tune it so innocent people aren't caught up," she said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Carrie Stefanson