Force crackdown on cannabis farm gangs backed by PCC

Liverpool / February 04

Merseyside's Police Commissioner has backed a month-long Force crackdown on the gangs that run cannabis farms.

Merseyside's Police Commissioner has backed a month-long Force crackdown on the gangs that run cannabis farms.

The initiative, aimed at tackling the organised gangs who operate cannabis farms in Merseyside, started on Monday with the seizure of more than 1,000 plants worth up to a million pounds.

The crackdown is being led by the force's Matrix Serious Organised Crime (MSOC) unit and is taking place in every corner of the force area - Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, St Helens and Knowsley.

Neighbourhood officers and the specialist cannabis dismantling team (CDT) already discover several cannabis farms every day in Merseyside.

The month of action aims to build on that success rate and send a clear message to the organised crime groups behind the farms that the police will not tolerate the production and sale of cannabis on the streets of Merseyside.

Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: "The Force is uncovering and dismantling cannabis farms on a daily basis, but this month of action reaffirms and emphasises their commitment to tackling the gangs that are running these drug factories and removing them from our neighbourhoods.

"The production of this drug is just one element of the serious and organised crime that brings misery to the streets of Merseyside. Young people are manipulated and drawn into getting involved in criminal activity, while the quality of life of law-abiding residents is disturbed and their lives put in danger due to the hazardous nature of these farms. They are magnets for violence and are used to fund criminal gangs.

"I strongly support the Chief Constable in his commitment to identifying, targeting and disrupting those involved in such crime and ensuring Merseyside remains a hostile environment for anyone engaged in such activity.”

During the first day of the operation, police executed Misuse of Drugs Act warrants across the county and seized around 1,000 plants and arrested 18 people.

In Sefton, a 500-plant farm was uncovered at a house in Coronation Road in Crosby and a 22-year-old man arrested. A smaller cannabis factory containing several dozen plants was also dismantled in Seaforth and a 52-year-old man arrested. Bags of cannabis and white powder were also found.

In north Liverpool, ten people were arrested in total and 162 cannabis plants found in seven farms, including one in a loft and bedroom in a house in Stoneycroft. A large container full of harvested cannabis was also discovered and the occupant arrested. Further along Queens Drive, in West Derby, evidence of a recently cultivated cannabis farm was uncovered. Hydroponic growing equipment was seized along with thousands of pounds of cash. A woman was arrested at the property on suspicion of possession with intent to supply and money laundering.

And on the edge of the city centre in Vauxhall, officers from MSOC's uniformed services wing searched an industrial unit on Naylor Street and found more than 200 plants being grown in a hidden cellar. A large number of car parts thought to belong to a stolen Mercedes car were also recovered.

Meanwhile, in south Liverpool officers from Admiral Street police station executed drugs warrants at properties in Wavertree, Toxteth and Allerton and discovered four cannabis farms. In Briardale Road, L18 two separate houses were searched and officers found 178 plants in three bedrooms and the loft of one house and 47 plants in another. A quantity of suspected Class A drugs were also found at the smaller farm and a 24-year-old man arrested, while at the larger one, tablets believed to be Ecstasy and a stun gun were seized. Elsewhere in Tillotson Close, L8, three men were arrested after cannabis plants and powder believed to be heroin were found.

Drugs warrants were also being carried out in Knowsley, St Helens and Wirral yesterday and the Forcewide activity will continue throughout the month.

Superintendent David Charnock, from MSOC, who is leading the month-long operation, said: "We are already having great successes in uncovering cannabis farms every day as more and more people become wise to the tell-tale signs that there is one in their community.

"The public have been a massive help in telling us what they know and in return we have vowed to act on that information and take action against the criminals who are profiting from these farms.

"Cannabis is not a harmless drug. It is hugely profitable to grow and sell it and we know that organised crime groups set up and control these factories, often in the very heart of local communities.

"The knock-on effects can be devastating for decent, law-abiding people who live there, as rival criminals fighting for control of these farms bring violence and initimidation to the streets.

"That is why we are going after these criminals in a concerted crackdown this month - to severely disrupt and damage their criminal activities and show the public that it is in everyone's interests to work together to tackle this problem."

The month of action also includes an awarness-raising campaign to educate people about the dangers of cannabis and also how people can help put a stop to the cannabis farms.

School liason officers will be giving presentations to secondary school pupils throughout the county about the consequences of smoking or possessing cannabis, incuding the damage to their health, the paranoia it can cause and the impact getting arrested can have on going on holiday to countries like America and on getting a job.

Neighbourhood officers will also be setting up a replica cannabis factory in empty units in shopping areas to show people going about their daily business what potential dangers and hazards exist inside a farm.

Supt Charnock added: "Many of these cannabis factories are death-traps and we are increasingly finding more in residential areas, rght next to where other people live. Often the electricity supply has been tampered with and this, coupled with the heat lamps and water system, increases the risk of a fire breaking out inside. Given that these farms are often tucked away inside ordinary terraced and semi-detached houses, this is jeopardising people's safety.

"I would urge people to keep an eye out for certain tell-tale signs that cannabis may be grown where they live. Fresh cannabis has a more pungent, sickly smell compared to when it is smoked. Houses will often have the windows sealed with newspapers and foil to keep the heat in and prevent people looking in. People may sudedently visit at strange hours of the night to bring growing equipment in or to remove the drugs, yet in between it may seem like no-one lives there.

"If you see any of these warning signs and suspect there is a cannabis farm operating near you, it is in your interests to tell the police, anonymously if you feel more comfortable, and we will act on it."