£11,000 haul in swoop on cannabis farm

POLICE smashed another cannabis farm as Government figures were released showing more than 20 are found across the country each day.

An estimated £11,000 worth of drugs were found in a house during a raid in West View Road, Hartlepool.

Police say the cannabis plants were in the process of being harvested and were close to being ready to hit the town’s streets.

It comes as an Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) report states that more than 20 of the drug factories are found in Britain every day.

More than one million plants were recovered in 7,865 properties during the last financial year with a street value of £100m.

The report, which gives projected figures for April 2011 to March this year, says the UK is at “significant risk” from criminal gangs who cultivate cannabis on a commercial scale.

Detective Sergeant Daryll Tomlinson, of Hartlepool Police’s drugs unit, said he is aware of a cannabis problem in the town and yesterday’s raid shows that officers are actively targeting those responsible for growing the drug.

Det Sgt Tomlinson added: “The drugs unit is making attempts with local neighbourhood teams to clamp down on cannabis growers due to the harm they cause society.

“Not only can it lead to further criminal activity but it is dangerous due to the electrics involved and the damage it can cause to properties. Then there is the smell and the disruption it causes to people’s lives.

“Hartlepool’s drugs unit and the neighbourhood police teams will continue to target those responsible.”

A 38-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the West View Road operation on suspicion of producing cannabis, possessing cannabis with the intent to supply and posession of cocaine.

She has been bailed pending further inquiries.

The Acpo report shows that in the Cleveland Police force area, 36 farms were found during the past year – seven fewer than four years ago, but 13 more than the figure for 2010-11.

It equates to six farms per 100,000 head of population being uncovered in Cleveland.

In Durham, 52 farms were recorded for 2011-12, 10 up on last year and 45 more than the 2007-08 total of seven.

South Yorkshire had the highest ratio in the UK with 64 farms per 100,000 people – 851 farms.

Commander Allan Gibson of the Metropolitan Police, Acpo’s lead on 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.”

The report states that criminals are also “taxing” their fellow cannabis growers by stealing crops and some cultivators are being forced to grow plants to pay off debts.

Robberies, burlgaries and violence linked to cannabis farms are also said to be on the rise.

“Gardeners” are also being hired to reduce the risk of being caught and financial losses with smaller crops in residential areas being preferred over bigger productions.