Police promise cannabis famine for Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester Police is promising to blight cannabis crops and weed out and imprison the criminals that sow fear and misery by setting up cannabis farms in local communities across the county. Under Operation Broadley that involves all six forces in the North West officers are stepping up the fight to locate and destroy cannabis farms set up in rented properties. They want the public to support them by reporting their suspicions either directly on 101 the new single non-emergency number or anonymously through Crimestoppers on .  Officers say that due to more stringent border controls dealers have switched from importing cannabis to growing it in the UK with cannabis cultivation offences in Greater Manchester involving 10 or more plants increasing from 1,012 in 2010 to 1,180 last year, an increase of 16 per cent. Over the same periods GMP has increased seizures of cannabis plants by 11 per cent and made 1,458 arrests for these offences in 2011 an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year. Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK and was reclassified from a Class C to a Class B drug in 2009. Possession can lead to anything from an £80 on-the-spot to an unlimited fine and up to five years imprisonment. Dealing can lead to arrest and up to 14 years in prison. Police want residents to look out for and report the tell-tale signs of properties being used for cannabis production in their neighbourhoods. These include windows being constantly covered from the inside, people visiting the property for short periods and at unusual times and no one actually living at the property. There may also be gardening equipment and large quantities of compost stored in the rear of the premises, vents protruding from the roof or windows and a pungent odour in the vicinity. Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Terry Sweeney who is also the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on cannabis said: “Criminals involved in running these cannabis farms are part of organised gangs prepared to use extreme violence and intimidation to protect and expand their illegal business interests.

“They plough profits made from drug dealing into other serious criminal activities and force users to turn to theft and burglary to fund their addiction. “We have made more than 3,500 arrests in hundreds of raids in the last three years and will be working hard over the next few months to put cannabis farmers out of business and destroy their crops. “The people of Greater Manchester can help to stop these evil people planting their seeds of destruction in our communities by keeping an eye out for the tell-tale signs of cannabis farming and reporting their suspicions either directly to us on 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Operation Broadley is being organised through the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (Titan) and involves their officers working alongside officers from the six regional police forces – Merseyside, GMP, Cheshire, Lancashire, North Wales and Cumbria. Detective Superintendent John Lyons, from Titan, said: “Cannabis is not the harmless drug it is often perceived to be and is the most used illegal drug in the UK. An increasing number of people who grow cannabis are directly funding dangerous, organised criminal gangs. These gangs are often responsible for gun crime, violence and intimidation across the North West. “Titan and the region’s forces take the cultivation and supply of cannabis extremely seriously. Drugs and their associated activity cause misery to our communities and we act on all information we receive to disrupt and ultimately prevent those involved in the drugs trade from operating on our streets. “The public of the North West are our eyes and ears and we appeal to anyone with any information about cannabis cultivation in their area to make contact during this month of action and beyond. We will act on all information provided to us to ensure that those involved in the cultivation of cannabis are brought to justice.”

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