CANNABIS farms grow more than just drugs but how do you spot one that may be under your nose?
With an estimated 500,000 people growing cannabis in the UK – roughly one person on every street – it is highly likely that someone near you is participating in the illegal activity.
As Merseyside Police take part in a month-long crackdown on tackling organised gangs who operate cannabis farms across both sides of the river, a huge focus has been placed on making people aware of the signs of the harmful drug, with replica cannabis farms “popping up” in various locations – including Liscard’s Cherry Tree Shopping Centre.
The “pop up” farm, which was set up in a vacant unit in the shopping centre on Friday, is used to catch the eye of shoppers and give them an insight into what could be happening next door.
With heat lamps, artificial lighting as well as bundles of bank notes, fake guns and white power, the replica shop shows how cannabis farms are linked to more sinister things like organised crime and violence.
Liscard’s dedicated officer, Cons Charlie Farley, was on hand to explain the repercussions of cannabis production and with the help of PCSOs, handed out “Scratch and Sniff” cards to passers-by.
“It is all about making people aware,” said PC Farley, who told the Globe Friday’s operation led to a positive response and even helped to gather vital intelligence.
“It’s a good initiative because there is so much that people don’t know about cannabis and its production.
“A lot of people don’t know what it smells like – it’s a hard smell to describe – so we’ve been handing out the cards so that it gives them an idea of what to look out for.
“We have had some people who have told us where it’s going on, they’ve said which streets to go to and after using the cards, they’ve said that they have smelled it in certain places.”
Despite the positive response from some, Cons Farley said some people said they should “let them get on with it”.
“Some have said, ‘What’s the problem?’ but they don’t understand the repercussions that come with cannabis production – like rival gangs, and even bridged electricity metres which could be a fire hazard.”
Cons Farley added: “It’s also about cannabis use and teaching people the signs of it.
“What I find in the job is that when we arrest kids for possession, their parents have no idea that they have been using it because they don’t know the smell.”
The cannabis crackdown is being led by the force’s Matrix Serious Organised Crime (MSOC) unit and is taking place in every corner of the force area – Wirral, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Knowsley.
Neighbourhood officers and specialist cannabis dismantling teams already discover several cannabis farms each day in Merseyside but the month of action aims to build on that success and send a clear message to those behind the farms that the police will not tolerate the production and sale of cannabis on the streets of Merseyside.
See a video of the pop-up farm below.
How to spot a cannabis farm.
1. Strong, stickly smell given off by cannabis plants.
2. Cannabis growing equipment being taken into a house eg lighting and ventilation equipment.
3. Constantly covered or blocked-off windows.
4. Strong and constant lighting day and night.
5. High levels of heat and condensation.
6. Constant buzz of ventilation.
7. Lots of power cables.
8. Unsociable coming and going at all hours.
If you suspect you have come into contact with a cannabis farm call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or Merseyside Police on 101.