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100 Cannabis Factories Busted

Smokin Moose

Fallen Cannabis Warrior
THE full extent to which organised crime gangs will go to set up and conceal cannabis factories can be revealed today.

Wales on Sunday understands that more than 100 cannabis factories have been busted in Wales over the last year alone.

And that represents a dramatic increase on the previous 12 months as gangs infiltrate quiet suburban areas to set up major drug dens.

Our investigation comes in the same week that 350 cannabis plants were uncovered at a three-bedroomed rented terrace house that had been converted into a large-scale dope factory in Newport.

Also this week, police in Swansea uncovered a similar facility that was cultivating 150 plants following a tip-off from neighbours.

And in Cardiff two police community support officers sniffed out one of the biggest cannabis factories ever seen in Cardiff, which was growing UKP200,000 worth of the drug.

And that's the tip of the iceberg - our investigations can reveal that some factories have been known to grow more than UKP300,000 worth of the drug.

Detective Sergeant David Stroud from Gwent Police's Intelligence Bureau said the problem was escalating throughout Wales.

He said: "There is so much money to be made in this by organised crime groups.

"There has been a massive increase in Gwent but, nationally, it is a growth industry because of the declassification of the drug."

Drug barons are using increasingly sophisticated technology to both maximise the number of plants they can grow and stop the public from finding out what they are doing.

"With all of these houses that have been converted to dens, they will have a sophisticated hydroponic set-up in terms of the filters and lighting they use," said DS Stroud.

"They will also have four-feet high extraction fans that get rid of the smell so that the neighbours don't suspect what is going on. And there will always be some form of irrigation, even if it's just a hosepipe from the bath.

"Often we've found that mothballs scented with a smell of ammonium are used in small containers by the letterbox which hide the smell of the plant from passers-by - and the windows will normally be blacked out as well.

"In the biggest cannabis factories, there will be plants on all levels - - in the basement, on the first and second floor and in the attic. We've recovered as many as 650 plants in one house."

And DS Stroud warned that such factories posed a huge risk to the public because the owners often rewired the properties without any regard for health and safety - which could lead to fires and, in extreme cases, explosions.

He said: "In essence, to avoid detection, what is being done in a lot of the cannabis factories is that they are bypassing gas and electricity meters.

"As a result you have live energy and high voltages going into these premises without any fusing. Often you've 300 amps coming through the factory - and the average household plug is 13 amps.

"If there is any suggestion that there is a cannabis factory, because of these dangers, we'll try to shut them down immediately for the safety of the public. If it's a terraced house it can pose a significant danger to the neighbours."

He added that it was the responsibility of landlords to check their properties frequently - especially if they become suspicious of their tenants.

"For the landlord, it's vital that they check their premises - because these houses are being absolutely trashed. The people that run these factories don't clean up before they leave and move on.

"When they are putting vents in for the filters they will literally hack through the ceilings and the floors, and create foot-wide holes with a chainsaw and an axe.

"And because of the heat and the moisture, the house becomes mouldy and mildewy inside.

"In our experience the vast majority of the cannabis factories are in rented accommodation.

"The person will go to the landlord and pay up to six months in advance. Once the tenant has secured the house, it is set up into a factory.

"But then when the landlord wants to come and inspect the house, they'll give an excuse that they're shift workers or they're away, so it'll be put off - and that's something that landlords should be aware of."

Detective Superintendent Dave Bishop, South Wales Police's Head of Serious Organised Crime, warned that more and more criminal gangs were using Wales as their base.

He said: "Some of the houses and factories being used to cultivate cannabis are being run by organised crime groups which are sometimes from outside the force area. We are looking at all opportunities to tackle this type of criminality, which research shows can lead to the use of harder drugs in our communities."

He added that the residents living next door to such factories had a crucial role to play - and urged all communities across Wales to be as vigilant as possible.

He said: "We are constantly working within our communities to gather intelligence. Many raids have been as a result of information received from the public.

"I would urge everyone to be vigilant as to any suspicious activity in our streets and neighbourhoods and to report these matters, confidentially if needs be, to their local police or Crimestoppers.

"We will continue to gather intelligence from our communities and tackle those who are still engaged in this kind of drug activity."

A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government said they were committed to helping the police tackle the escalating problem.

He said: "The Assembly Government recognises that cannabis factories represent a crime that must be tackled if we are to make real progress in dealing with substance misuse.

"We are committed to supporting the Police in their efforts to tackle this crime."

Source: Wales on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: 2007 Trinity Mirror Plc
Contact: wosmail@wme.co.uk
Website: icWales - Wales news, business news, sport, jobs in Wales, whats on & more
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