NORTH Wales Police is encouraging people to be on the lookout for tell-tale signs of cannabis farms in their area.
As part of the national ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) In Focus week (September 1-5) looking at Cannabis Cultivation, police forces across the country will be raising awareness of cannabis farms and the harm it brings to individuals and communities.
Detective Inspector Arwyn Jones from the Operation Scorpion Team said: “Cannabis isn’t the harmless drug people often think it is.
There is evidence that serious and organised criminal groups are using cannabis cultivation as a means to further their criminal activity, such as trafficking Class A drugs, human trafficking and possession of weapons.
“Sometime people working in the farms have been victims of human trafficking who are working there against their will, or vulnerable members of the public intimidated into working for a criminal gang.
"The groups that grow it can bring crime, violence and intimidation into local communities.
“So I would urge the public to contact either North Wales Police or Crimestoppers in order to try and keep their communities free from cannabis farms.”
Private landlords who rent out residential properties across North Wales are also being urged to check that they are not being used to grow cannabis.
DI Jones added: “Rented homes can be used by tenants to grow the drug, sometimes causing extensive damage to the property and leaving its owner with a huge repair bill.
“The damage they can cause can be shocking, in a short space of time they can tear the furniture out, gut the whole place and have cannabis plants growing in every single room.
"They mess with the power supply, smash walls down to make more space, leave the garden and exterior of the property to degrade and generally make the house unliveable.
“We want landlords to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour and report it to us before it gets out of hand.”
How can you tell if there’s a cannabis farm near you?
A strong and sickly sweet smell
Equipment to grow cannabis being taken into a house. For example, lighting and ventilation equipment.
Constantly covered or blocked-off windows.
Cannabis factories often have constantly pulled curtains, black-out blinds or foil coverings.
Unsociable coming and going at all hours or neighbours you never see.
Strong and constant lighting day and night.
High levels of heat and condensation.
Cannabis factories often give off heat and the windows stay misted up constant buzz of ventilation.
Listen out for a whirring sound as the growers try to create an ideal climate for the plants to grow.
Lots of power cables.
Gangs dig underground to lay cables that hook up to things like lamp posts so they don’t have to pay for the enormous amounts of electricity they use.
They can easily bypass a £20,000 utility bill.
If you spot any of the signs that there may be a cannabis farm in your community you can call North Wales Police on 101 or send a text message to 66767, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the Anonymous Online Form.
In 2013 the charity Crimestoppers launched their scratch and sniff campaign – distributing specially-made cards which replicated the smell of cannabis in its growing state, to help teach the public about the signs pf commercial cannabis cultivations in residential areas.