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Police dismantle large cannabis farm found under former restaurant

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Drugs with a street value of at least £50,000 were seized from the basement of a former restaurant last week, as local officers took part in the latest regional drugs operation.

It was one of over 15 disruptions and warrants carried out in the county in the last month to help make the South West no place for drugs.

Nearly 100 plants were removed from the property in Albion Street, Cheltenham, after the landlord raised concerns and the letting agency found the grow at the address.

A man was subsequently arrested and charged in connection with the case and an investigation is ongoing.

The latest regional drugs operation has targeted organised crime groups (OCGs) involved in cannabis cultivation and has led to 67 arrests, £6.8 million worth of cannabis and weapons including a 9mm pistol being seized from locations across the South West.

The region’s five police forces, supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) and working with the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and independent charity Crimestoppers, carried out 58 warrants and searches at commercial cannabis grows as part of the region’s ongoing collective work to target and disrupt organised crime groups harming our communities through drug supply.

The South West’s results are part of a nationally coordinated operation to unearth and 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. 

Temporary Detective Superintendent Claire Nutland, of Gloucestershire Constabulary, said: “The Cheltenham case highlights the benefit of landlords and letting agencies remaining vigilant to this type of criminality. In this instance, by making checks on the property they uncovered a large cannabis grow and we were able to step in, seize the drugs and ensure we disrupted an organised crime group

“It’s worth reminding people that cannabis is a key source of illicit income for these groups, who are often involved in other serious and organised crime, including class A drug importation and supply, exploitation of vulnerable people through modern slavery, and serious violence as they compete for territory.”

Officers are also looking to raise awareness of the dangers of such cannabis grows, which become dangerous due to fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes and water damage.

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire’s PCC Chris Nelson and other PCCs in the region are writing to landlords across the South West to highlight the issue.

Anyone with information about a potential cannabis cultivation 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

There are some key signs to spot a property could be being used as a cannabis factory:

  • Frequent visitors to a property at unsocial hours throughout the day and night.
  • Blacked out windows or condensation on the windows, even when it is not cold outside.
  • Bright lights in rooms throughout the night.
  • Electricity meters being tampered with/altered and new cabling, sometimes leading to street lighting. High electricity bills could also be an indicator.
  • A powerful, distinctive, sweet, sickly aroma and noise from fans.
  • Lots of work or deliveries of equipment to an address, particularly those associated with growing plants indoors without soil such as heaters and lighting.
  • An excessive amount of plant pots, chemicals, fertilisers, and compost.

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