Police report a rise in large-scale cannabis farms in Hartlepool over past three years

The plants found at  Tankerville Street. Picture by Hartlepool Neighbourhood Police Team
The plants found at Tankerville Street. Picture by Hartlepool Neighbourhood Police Team

One cannabis farm a week was uncovered on average by police in Hartlepool last year.

According to new figures from Cleveland Police 184 drug farms were discovered in the town in the last three years - the highest number in any of the areas covered by the force.

Police outside the house in Tankerville Street where 160 cannabis plants believed to be worth �85,000 were discovered.

Police outside the house in Tankerville Street where 160 cannabis plants believed to be worth �85,000 were discovered.

The figures, revealed following a Freedom of Information request, show the number of cannabis farms discovered has fallen - from 70 in 2015/16 to 55 in 2017/18 - although police say they have seen a rise in the number of large-scale operations.

Police say they are unable to put a value on the drugs recovered, but 10 cannabis farms had more than 100 plants when uncovered by police in Hartlepool, which had an estimated combined total value of more than £550,000 based on national guidelines of each plant being worth £550.

The number of cannabis farms with more than 100 plants was up from two the previous year and none in 2015/16.

There were 59 drugs farms found in the town during 2016/17.

Hartlepool had the second-highest number of cannabis farms discovered in the Cleveland area last year, behind Middlesbrough.

Detective Constable Sion Prince from the force’s community drugs enforcement Team (CDET) said: “The figures show that we are identifying and destroying cannabis farms.

“We have seen the number of large cannabis productions increase, and that may be because members of the public are more likely to be alerted to larger-scale operations.

“There are a few tell-tale signs which often give these farms away, including a strong smell, lights on in a property at all times, and often a very high usage of electricity.

“One of the biggest issues that we come across with premises used for large-scale cannabis production is that some landlords or letting agents do not make sufficient checks into prospective tenants.

“Frequently in an investigation we find that letting agents have sometimes been given a false identity card from an individual taking out a tenancy.

“Often the person taking out the tenancy never actually lives at the address. Instead a human trafficking victim is forced to live and work in unpleasant and dangerous conditions.

“The public are the eyes and the ears within the communities which we serve, and any intelligence we receive, we will act upon.

“We are very thankful for the public’s support when they come forward with information.”

In January 2018 cannabis plants worth more than £435,000 were seized in three raids in the space of two days in Hartlepool.

Officers discovered over 200 plants at an address on Hereford Street, followed by a second discovery of 10 mature plants worth around £10,000 on Stephen Street.

A further 500 plants were found at a property on Elwick Road worth around £275,000.

Police also launched an investigation in March 2018 after cannabis plants worth £370,000 were discovered when they raided a derelict property - the old Manor House in Owton Manor Lane, and found 445 plants.

In July 2018 a cannabis farm with an estimated value of £75,000 was destroyed after police raided an end terraced house in St Paul’s Road and found over 250 plants.

A week later police discovered around 160 mature plants at a house in Tankerville Street. This was estimated by police at the time to be worth around £85,000.

In November 2018 police recovered over 200 cannabis plants from an address in Lancaster Road, Hartlepool, thought to be worth around £168,000.

The haul came following a report of suspicious activity at the premises.

Elsewhere in the force area, in Middlesbrough 57 cannabis farms were discovered in 2017/18, 13 of which had more than 100 plants.

In total 564 cannabis farms were discovered by Cleveland Police over the three-year period, 146 in Middlesbrough, 82 in Redcar and 109 in Stockton.

The total number of cannabis farms found across Cleveland has fallen slightly over the past three years, from 190 in 2015/16 to 189 in 2016/17 and 185 last year.

Anyone with information on drugs activity in their local area is asked to contact police on 101 or report anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service