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Tip-Offs Mean More Cannabis Factories A Shut Down In Leicestershire

MedicalNeed

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More cannabis factories are being shut down thanks to tip-offs from the public.

More than 220 "farms" have been uncovered in Leicestershire in the first six months of this year — about the same number found in all of 2008 and well above the 178 found last year.

Police said the discoveries had "seriously disrupted" drug dealing in the city and county.

In the past three years, the number of people charged with producing the class B drug has nearly doubled to 95.

Detective Inspector Antony Dales said the force relied on information from neighbours, who are getting better at spotting the signs that properties are being used to mass-produce the drug.

Criminals have been found gardening the plants in houses on estates around Leicestershire and disused factories.

He said: "People are definitely more informed and do supply us with far more information. It's the noise and smells and any suspicious visitors, which are getting people's attention."

Det Insp Dales said crime gangs are responsible for most farms, while small groups of "cowboys" dabble in it.

Figures obtained by the Leicester Mercury show the number of plants seized shot up to more than 19,300 last year, from 11,225 the year before. In the first half of this year, 11,300 plants have been found.

Last year's rise is partly explained by the discovery of more than 4,400 plants — and 1,500 already harvested — at a disused hosiery factory in Cyprus Road, Leicester, last September, producing drugs worth £1.7 million.

Five men were convicted last week for their part in the operation, which was the largest cannabis farm found in the city or county.

Police stumbled on the factory after someone reported a suspected burglary.

Det Insp Dales said there was a significant fire hazard from cannabis farms because of the high-voltage heating lamps used.

They require much more electricity than the average home, which means growers often bypass power supplies with potentially dangerous wiring.

Two weeks ago, firefighters found 50 plants in Gipsy Lane, Leicester, when smoke spread from a faulty heating lamp and set off an alarm.

Detective Chief Inspector Drew Elliott, from the force intelligence bureau, said: "A significant number of cannabis factories have been shut down over the course of the last three years, which has seriously disrupted the sale of drugs across the city and county.

"We have experienced considerable assistance from members of the public and local communities in identifying these premises and I would ask the public to get in touch if they suspect a property near them is being used for the cultivation of cannabis.

"Landlords also need to be vigilant about who they are renting their property to."

Steve Lunn, the county's assistant chief fire officer, said: "The increasing prevalence of cannabis factories represents a risk to both firefighting officers and the public.

"A couple of years ago cannabis factory fires were unknown. Now, we are having to deal with a couple a year."



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