Cheshire police is appealing to the public to look out for signs of cannabis cultivation in their local communities.
The move is part of a campaign to tackle organised crime groups.
Over the past three months officers have seized over £3m worth of cannabis after closing farms across the county.
Following these successful seizures officers are now asking the public to look out for signs of cannabis cultivation in their own communities and to report any suspicions that they have.
Ch Insp Paul Taylor from the Cheshire Police Intelligence Bureau said: “Information received from the public has provided a vital role in the successful cannabis farms closures that we have seen so far this year. Following this success we are keen to gather even more information from the public to help tackle the organised crime groups who are operating them.
“In recent years we have noticed that these groups have developed the way they cultivate cannabis. Not only are disused commercial and industrial premises being used but now also a significant amount of activity is taking place in houses which are often rented from private landlords.
“Not only is this type of activity detrimental to the local community but it also has wider economic consequences due to theft of electricity which it is estimated costs customers £200m per year across the UK.”
How to spot signs of cannabis cultivation
Signs of cannabis cultivation include:
- A strong and sickly sweet smell.
- Equipment to grow cannabis being taken into a house, for example lighting and ventilation equipment.
- Constantly covered or blocked-off windows. Cannabis factories often have constantly closed curtains, black-out blinds or foil coverings.
- People coming and going at all hours or neighbours you never see.
- Strong and constant lighting day and night.
- High levels of heat and condensation. Cannabis factories often give off heat and the windows stay misted up.
- A constant buzz of ventilation. Listen out for a whirring sound as the growers try to create an ideal climate for the plants to grow.
- Lots of power cables. Gangs dig underground to lay cables that hook up to things like lamp posts so they don′t have to pay for the enormous amounts of electricity they use.
Risk of fire
As well as the financial costs, there is also significant threat to life due to the risk of fires.
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service head of prevention and protection Keith Brooks said: “The set-up of cannabis farms often involves bypassing the electricity supply or tampering with the wiring which is highly dangerous and can lead to a serious fire. This poses a great risk to members of the public, particularly if they live next door to the property as the fire could quickly spread. It is also dangerous for the firefighters who would be called to respond.”
Ch Insp Taylor added: “Organised crime groups undermine our local communities and bring misery to local residents through their involvement in organised crime and illegal drugs.
“By looking out for the signs of cannabis cultivation in their local communities and reporting any suspicions that they have we can work together to tackle organised criminals.
“I urge anyone who suspects a property is being used to cultivate cannabis to contact Cheshire Police on 101 and we will act on the information that we receive. “