Officers from West Yorkshire Police have seized cannabis estimated to be worth more than £4 million after executing 50 search warrants as part of a national operation aimed at tackling organised crime groups (OCGs).
A total of 46 people were arrested for offences linked to the drugs trade as part of the campaign.
Throughout June, West Yorkshire Police located and searched the cannabis grows with the aim of unearthing and disrupting the OCGs and their illegal revenue streams.
Over 8,000 cannabis plants were seized, as well as cash, weapons and other drugs as part a nationally-coordinated campaign known as Operation Mille.
Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Key, of West Yorkshire Police’s Programme Precision, which targets serious organised crime in the county, said:
“By going after the criminals involved in cannabis production we have disrupted their activities. This has been coordinated approach to tackling the large-scale cultivation of cannabis in West Yorkshire.
“Cultivation of cannabis which is a key source of illicit income for organised gangs. The connection between serious crime and cannabis cultivation is clear – the drugs trade fuels gang violence in our communities and leads to untold exploitation and misery.”
Operation Mille saw all 43 forces as well as Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and other partner agencies dedicate resources to target the criminal networks involved in cannabis production and other serious criminality.
The intensification period was designed to disrupt OCGs by taking out a key source of their revenue, while simultaneously apprehending many of those involved, safeguarding those being exploited, and increasing intelligence around how the networks operate.
Steve Jupp, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Serious and Organised Crime, said: “We know that organised networks involved in cannabis production are also directly linked to an array of other serious criminality such as class A drug importation, modern slavery and wider violence and exploitation.
“This operation not only successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity, but the intelligence gathered will also help inform future law enforcement across the country.
“Cannabis-related crime is often thought to be ‘low level’, however there are clear patterns around the exploitation and violence OCGs are using to protect their enterprises. We also frequently find that cannabis production is just one aspect of their criminal operations and that they are complicit in wider offending which blights our communities.
“Working with law enforcement colleagues in the National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement, the ROCU network, and a host of other partner organisations, we’ve not only been able to disrupt the criminal operations of a significant number of organised crime groups, but also increased our understanding of their other criminal activities.”
Cannabis factories also present a very real local threat
The size of criminal cannabis ‘factories’ means that damage is often caused to the properties themselves; the buildings can become dangerous as a result of fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes and water damage.
Anyone with information about a potential cannabis factory or drug dealing can contact their local force online or via 101.
People can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or crimestoppers-uk.org