POLICE have stepped up their war against cannabis farm gangs by seizing cannabis plants worth up to an estimated £1million in raids across Merseyside this week.

Officers from the force's Matrix Serious Organised Crime carried out search warrants at properties in Wirral, Sefton, St Helens and Knowsley as part of a new month-long campaign.

On the first day of the operation, police executed Misuse of Drugs Act warrants across the county and seized around 1000 plants and arrested 18 people.

In Sefton, a 500-plant farm was uncovered at a house in Crosby and a 22-year-old man was arrested.

A smaller cannabis factory containing several dozen plants was also dismantled in Seaforth and a 52-year-old man arrested. Bags of cannabis and white powder were also found.

In north Liverpool, ten people were arrested in total and 162 cannabis plants found in seven farms.

Evidence of a recently cultivated cannabis farm was uncovered at a house in West Derby. A woman was arrested at the property on suspicion of possession with intent to supply and money laundering.

The month of action also includes an awarness-raising campaign to educate people about the dangers of cannabis and also how people can help put a stop to the cannabis farms.

School liason officers will give presentations to secondary school pupils throughout the county about the consequences of smoking or possessing cannabis, incuding the damage to their health and affects on future job prospects.

Neighbourhood officers will also set up a replica cannabis factory in empty units in shopping areas to show people going about their daily business what potential dangers and hazards exist inside a farm.

Superintendent David Charnock, from MSOC, said: "We are already having great successes in uncovering cannabis farms every day as more and more people become wise to the tell-tale signs that there is one in their community.

"The public have been a massive help in telling us what they know and in return we have vowed to act on that information and take action against the criminals who are profiting from these farms.

"Cannabis is not a harmless drug. It is hugely profitable to grow and sell it and we know that organised crime groups set up and control these factories, often in the very heart of local communities.

"The knock-on effects can be devastating for decent, law-abiding people who live there, as rival criminals fighting for control of these farms bring violence and initimidation to the streets.

"That is why we are going after these criminals in a concerted crackdown this month - to severely disrupt and damage their criminal activities and show the public that it is in everyone's interests to work together to tackle this problem."

Merseyside Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: "The Force is uncovering and dismantling cannabis farms on a daily basis, but this month of action reaffirms and emphasises their commitment to tackling the gangs that are running these drug factories and removing them from our neighbourhoods.

"The production of this drug is just one element of the serious and organised crime that brings misery to the streets of Merseyside.

“Young people are manipulated and drawn into getting involved in criminal activity, while the quality of life of law-abiding residents is disturbed and their lives put in danger due to the hazardous nature of these farms.

"They are magnets for violence and are used to fund criminal gangs.

"I strongly support the Chief Constable in his commitment to identifying, targeting and disrupting those involved in such crime and ensuring Merseyside remains a hostile environment for anyone engaged in such activity."