16:59 PM, 30th April 2012, About 9 years ago
Drugs squads are raiding a cannabis factory nearly once every hour and seizing drugs worth hundreds of millions of pounds in an industry dubbed a growing menace by police commanders.
On average, 21 drugs factories are closed every day by police.
In two years, more than a million cannabis plants have been seized from illegal farms.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) claims the UK is at ‘significant risk’ from drugs gangs farming cannabis on a commercial scale.
Commander Allan Gibson of the Metropolitan Police, heading ACPO’s team dealing with cannabis cultivation, said: “Increasing numbers of organised crime groups are diverting into this area of criminality, but we are determined to continue to disrupt such networks and reduce the harm caused by drugs.”
Police warn criminal gangs are switching tactics to grow their drugs in several buy to let homes rather than a single site to reduce the risk of police swooping on their cannabis crops.
South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are the police areas with the most detected drug factories (1,786 farms) – all but one of the top 10 police areas for cannabis growing are in the north or midlands. The only other area that features is Avon and Somerset.
The region with the highest increase in detected farms was Devon and Cornwall, soaring from 11 in 2009 to 183 last year.
Police and home insurers say landlords are suffering thousands of pounds of damage to rental properties as criminals bypass electrics, add irrigation systems to water plants and rig up lights and heaters.
Areas with cannabis farms also see other crimes increase – with street robberies, burglaries and thefts rising as the gangs move in.
“Landlords, letting agents or neighbours suspecting a property is used to grow cannabis should tip off their local police,” said Gibson.
He urged them to watch for tell-tale signs like a strong smell, blacked out windows and large amounts of growing equipment being taken in to a home.
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