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Cannabis growing hot spots

London and Birmingham, and the ‘M62’ corridor of Liverpool, Manchester and the cities of West Yorkshire are ‘hot spots’ for cannabis growing. That is according to the crime-reporting line charity Crimestoppers. It reports it saw an increase in information received from the public of around 20 per cent on commercial cannabis cultivation following its Scratch and Sniff campaign launched in June.

With B2B mapping and analytics company, Esri UK, Crimestoppers has mapped its findings for the 17 participating force areas. While reported farms are as far afield as the Isle of Wight and the south coast, Wales, and Cumbria, most are in and around the main cities or near the M1 or M6 motorways. A further 650 reports were taken by Crimestoppers in the month after the campaign about cannabis cultivation in the other 28 police force areas around the UK. Due to the anonymous nature of the information the Charity receives, it was not possible to give any further detail on the information.

In support of the Association of Chief Police Officer’s (ACPO) Cannabis Cultivation Awareness week, running between September 1 and 5, Crimestoppers gave out the heat-map after the four weeks after its campaign, which saw a number of high value cannabis farms shut down.

The discovery of some of these farms was due to information received by Crimestoppers, or as a result of people contacting police due to the awareness raised through the Scratch and Sniff cards distributed to hot spot areas in the UK. Some 17 police forces supported the Crimestoppers campaign, with those using the cards seeing an increase of 33 per cent in information reports.

Roger Critchell, Director of Operations for Crimestoppers, said: “The fact we have seen a number of cannabis farms closed down in the weeks after the campaign once again shows that when Crimestoppers, the media, and the UK public join forces, we really can make a difference and aid law enforcement in the fight against serious organised crime.”

If you have any information on cannabis cultivation or any other crime – contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through the Anonymous Online Form.

What police say

The public are more confident to report cannabis farms, a senior police officer has said following a successful campaign run by the charity Crimestoppers, supported by police, to help people spot the signs of cannabis farms. Police forces are to collate information on commercial cannabis cultivation to provide a national profile on the scale of this crime area and trends in offending

National Policing Lead for Cannabis-related Crime, Detective Chief Superintendent Bill Jephson, said: “The campaign has played an important part in the fight against cannabis cultivation, which brings drug-related crime, violence and anti-sociable behaviour into communities. Their report will make for very interesting reading and will also include ‘heat maps’ showing cannabis hotspots around the country.”

Mr Jephson was marking the start of the ACPO-led “In Focus: Commercial Cannabis Cultivation” week, which will see forces around the country undertaking a mixture of communications and operations to encourage public awareness of cannabis farms in tandem with cracking down on them wherever they are found, which will include warrants being executed within some force areas.

Besides enforcement activity, highlights include Greater Manchester Police running a media event in tandem with their local fire service about the dangers of commercial cannabis cultivation in the community and running a seminar with landlords, housing associations and private housing providers; West Yorkshire Police are developing education on the subject for local authorities, collaborating with landlords to put out information and releasing a newly-commissioned YouTube video on this topic.

He also made reference to the part that cannabis farms play in supporting modern slavery, and the devastating effect that this can have on the lives of those forced to work on these criminal operations.

“Cannabis cultivation not only feeds a multi-million pound black market in increasingly potent and dangerous cannabis, which can have lasting physical and mental health effects on users, but it is also a key driver in modern slavery, with people forced to work on cannabis farms and strong-armed into servitude, either because of their untraceability as illegal migrants, or because they are in debt to the people in control of the operation. We are hopeful that the incoming Modern Slavery Bill and continued work by law enforcement partners will aid us in our work in this area.

“Commercial cannabis cultivation is a problem which affects all areas of our country and it is important that we work with communities to make sure that everyone knows what to look out for – from screened-off windows and unusual amounts of heat emanating from a property to signs of bypassing electricity meters.

“We are determined the bring the full weight of the law against those engaged in this dangerous and exploitative criminal activity, and we ask everyone to remain vigilant and, where you suspect anything, call your local police force on 101 or, alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their website at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.”

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said: “There is a strong link between commercial cannabis cultivation and organised crime. I welcome this campaign to disrupt the damaging trade and crack down on related crime. Gangs that cultivate cannabis for profit are often involved in further criminality such as modern slavery, trafficking and the use of firearms. We are already taking action to pursue criminals making money from the misery of innocent people, and to support victims.”

“Our cross-government strategy on drugs remains clear. We must prevent drug use in our communities, support users through treatment and wider recovery and ensure law enforcement agencies tackle the organised criminals behind the drugs trade.”


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