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Staffordshire Police has discovered more than 200 cannabis cultivations since the start of 2021 and has launched an operation to disrupt and deter drug operations in the county.
Through Operation Levidrome, the force is driving awareness and enforcement activity around cannabis cultivations to highlight the criminal activity often associated with cannabis farming.
Investments have been made in specialist equipment and training to enable greater evidence gathering and intelligence sharing to seek out and arrest those responsible.
Detective Superintendent Tom Chisholm said: “Large-scale cannabis farming is becoming increasingly commonplace and we have sustained efforts to clamp down on this activity; we want to make it very clear that it is not welcome in Staffordshire.
“Cannabis is a controlled Class B drug and its cultivation is often linked to more serious and complex crime. Offenders are likely to be part of an organised crime network and often they are intent on exploiting vulnerable people to ‘tend to’ or ‘cultivate’ the grows.”
Tom said: “It is vitally important the public understand that cannabis farming is often linked to sophisticated criminal networks where there are high levels of serious and dangerous criminality. There are also significant fire safety concerns linked to cannabis farming which further highlights the disregard these criminals have in putting people at risk for criminal gain.”
Cannabis farms can often be found in vacant warehouses or business premises, however the force is responding to increasing reports of large-scale grows found in residential properties, particularly in terrace housing. Offenders will often buy or rent the property for the sole purpose of growing cannabis and will manually tamper with the electrics to bypass any meters.
Tom continued: “Both the public and our partners play an important role in providing intelligence around cannabis cultivation and we continue to appeal for information from landlords, letting agents and the wider public to report any suspicious activity.”
Signs of cannabis cultivation or farming include:
• There’s a pungent smell – cannabis has a strong, familiar odour
• High levels of condensation on the windows – even in warmer months, heavy amounts of condensation may indicate the property is acting as a greenhouse
• Covered or blacked-out windows – although it may appear the property is unoccupied, blacked-out windows could be hiding lighting equipment on the inside
• High number of deliveries or large items being taken in or out – cannabis cultivations are expensive, thousands of pounds worth of equipment is needed for large-scale grows
• Constant buzz of ventilation – if there is a fan constantly working at all times, it could be acting as ventilation for a grow
• Strong lighting which is constant day or night – cannabis needs heavy lighting to grow, so pay attention to properties with bright lighting for extended periods of time. Lights can also be on a timer switch, coming on in the middle of the night.
• Lots of power cables – lights, dehumidifiers and heaters use a lot of energy, so growers will often hack electricity wires before the meter of the property to bypass electricity bills
• Unsociable comings and goings – unfamiliar faces turning up at the property at all times of the day and night could signal that a grow is present
Anyone with any information can contact Staffordshire Police by sending a direct message through Facebook or Twitter or calling 101.