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Publication date:- 2016-12-16

user-generated Headlines and reports on this page = 3 news items.    Page - 10.

Results from the 2 week crackdown on organised crime

CANNABIS farms with an estimated annual yield of more than £5 million have been uncovered by Merseyside Police during a 2 week crackdown on organised crime. In a co-ordinated campaign, Officers from across Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens, Sefton and Knowsley seized 1,278 plants and dismantled 28 cannabis farms. A total of 18 people have been arrested in connection with growing cannabis.

The 2 week crackdown aimed to damage organised crime networks by seizing drugs they were growing to fund other criminal activities, such as buying Class A drugs and firearms. During the fortnight, Officers on foot were assisted by the Dog Section and the latest technology to help find cannabis farms in Merseyside.

Officers also visited:- DIY stores, garden centres and hydroponics outlets to raise awareness of the types of purchases made by criminals looking to set up cannabis farms, such as large quantities of compost and other growing equipment.

Police spoke with letting agencies and landlords, as many cannabis growers take advantage of short term tenancy agreements to grow the drug.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Richardson said the results showed what could be achieved when the public shared information with the Police about drugs in their communities. He said:- "To have seized 1,278 plants bound for sale on the streets of Merseyside and further afield, and shut down cannabis farms capable of generating £5.1 million a year is a significant result for Merseyside Police. More importantly, it is a fantastic result for our communities where the criminals who set up these farms cause considerable misery. This is £5 million that will not be lining criminals' pockets, will not make them richer and will not help them commit more crime. Cannabis is an extremely damaging but profitable drug and the existence of cannabis farms in our communities has led to violence on our streets between rival gangs. Thanks to the public's help we have uncovered 28 farms and arrested 18 people and in doing so, disrupted the criminal activities of drugs gangs."

During the campaign, cannabis cultivations from smaller simple set ups to large sophisticated farms were discovered and dismantled. 1 of the largest was a 540 plant cannabis farm at a property, located in Walton Village, that was found on 22 November 2016, with an estimated annual yield of £2.1m. Another farm, in Old Swan, yielded 350 plants on 23 November 2016.

Other farms include:-

► 84 plants at a cannabis farm found in Wavertree, on 24 November 2016. A 43 year old man from Whiston was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis

► 70 plants found in Toxteth, on 24 November 2016.

► 200 plants found in Wavertree, on 24 November 2016.

300 plants found in Wavertree, on 25 November 2016.

► 20 plants found in Argyle Street South, on 30 November 2016. A 28 year old man from Tranmere was arrested on suspicion of cultivation of cannabis, abstraction of electricity and possession of class A drugs. He has been released pending a disposal decision.

► 81 plants found in Kensington, on 30 November 2016. A 55 year old man from Kensington was arrested on suspicion of production of cannabis, possession of cannabis, possession with intent to supply cocaine, abstraction of electricity and burglary. He has been released pending a disposal decision.

► 50 plants found in Prenton, on 1 December 2016. A 36 year old man, from Birkenhead, was arrested on suspicion of cannabis production and abstracting electricity.

► 100 plants found in Halewood, on 1 December 2016, alongside a large quantity of cash. A 54 year old man from Halewood was arrested on suspicion of production of cannabis and abstract electricity.

The cannabis farms were uncovered by Officers from local neighbourhood support teams and the majority of the 28 farms were then dismantled by the force's specialist cannabis dismantling team (CDT).

Other items seized from properties include shotgun cartridges, Class A drugs and hidden cash.

Detective Chief Inspector Steve Richardson added:- "The range in size and scale of some of these farms has been vast and it is clear that they have been set up by people who are highly organised and know what they are doing. Many of the larger set ups have been very sophisticated, with expensive lighting and irrigation systems to replicate the hot, humid conditions these plants need to grow. That equipment requires a lot of electricity, and we commonly find overloaded plug sockets posing a very real fire risk, and that electricity has been bypassed so these criminals avoid paying electricity bills. Officers and support staff have worked tirelessly to achieve these excellent results often in difficult conditions and it has been reassuring to have so much support from the public who have given us the information we need. I am sure these results will show the people of Merseyside just what we can achieve when we work together to stop drug dealing and drug supply blighting our communities."

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