Housing association backs cannabis crackdown
Published by Riverside for Riverside in Communities
Social landlord Riverside is backing a campaign to crackdown on cannabis farms across the North West.
More than 5,120 cannabis factories containing an excess of 345,000 plants with an estimated potential street value of around £140 million have been discovered across the North West in the last three years.
There has been an increase in the number of cannabis factories across the region with a steady rise in the number of smaller cannabis farms, often in rental properties, which are linked to organised crime groups.
Officers from the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan), alongside the six regional police forces - Merseyside, GMP, Cheshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Cumbria - are launching a month-long operation today (Monday, March 5), to crack down on cannabis cultivation across the region.
During the month there will an increase in police activity, including a number of strike days, to raise awareness of the problem as well as to highlight the dangers of cannabis cultivation and urge members of the community who suspect cannabis is being grown in their neighbourhoods to call police.
Officers are also working with utility companies, garden centres, DIY stores, local authorities, fire services and the Royal Mail to help them to spot the signs that cannabis is being grown and the typical equipment being bought by criminals for cannabis cultivation.
Detective Superintendent John Lyons, from Titan, said: "Cannabis is not the harmless drug it is often perceived to be and is the most used illegal drug in the UK. An increasing number of people who grow cannabis are directly funding dangerous, organised criminal gangs. These gangs are often responsible for gun crime, violence and intimidation across the North West.
"Titan and the region's forces take the cultivation and supply of cannabis extremely seriously. Drugs and their associated activity cause misery to our communities and we act on all information we receive to disrupt and ultimately prevent those involved in the drugs trade from operating on our streets.
"The public of the North West are our eyes and ears and we appeal to anyone with any information about cannabis cultivation in their area to make contact during this month of action and beyond. We will act on all information provided to us to ensure that those involved in the cultivation of cannabis are brought to justice."
Some of the signs that cannabis is being grown are:
- Strange smells and sounds
- Frequent and varied visitors to a property, often at unusual times
- Gardening equipment being taken into a property, such as plant pots, fertiliser, fans and industrial lighting
- Windows are sealed and covered or the curtains are permenantly closed,
- Heat from an adjoining property
- Individually these activities may seem commonplace, however, together may indicate something more sinister.
In Merseyside, there have been 1,214 people arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis in hundreds of raids in the last three years and police are continuing to work hard to identifty those responsible, destroy their crops and put them before the courts.
Superintendent Mark Harrison, who is leading Operation Broadley for Merseyside Police, said: "We are seeing an increasing trend among organised crime groups in Merseyside to grow cannabis with firearms incidents and other serious criminality arising when factions steal each other's crops and associated money.
"There is a strong and distinctive smell to cannabis and I would urge any members of the public to contact us if they suspect it may be growing somewhere so we can help rid our communitues of this danger.
"People who grow cannabis often have a total disregard for the safety of others, frequently endangering the lives of those in neighbouring properties by tampering with electricity supplies and leaving live electrical cables exposed, increasing the risk of fire.
"Hazardous waste is often left inside properties or in nearby public spaces and premises can be left structurally unsafe, which is a real concern in our streets.
"We urge anyone with any information about suspected cannabis farms in their area to call us so we can take action against the offenders."
Tom McGuire, lead director on anti-social behaviour at Riverside, said: “We will not tolerate anti-social behaviour or criminal activity in our neighbourhoods.
“The cultivation or trafficking of drugs is a criminal activity and a magnet for further crime and anti-social behavior, which can blight communities.
“We are working in partnership with the police and if any of our tenants are found to be flouting the law and using their home to cultivate drugs or commit any other form of crime, we will seek to evict them”.
“We would urge anybody who suspects that any of our properties are being used for illegal activities to call us on 0845 111 0000. All information will be treated in strict confidence.”
Anyone with any information about cannabis cultivation is asked to call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.