Police seize £130m in cannabis plants in biggest ever UK-wide crackdown

Police say searches and arrests were made in all counties in England and Wales, ITV News' Charlie Frost reports

More than 1,000 cannabis farms have been raided by police across Britain in a mass scale crackdown.

Plants worth £130 million seized and at least 1,000 suspects have been arrested, in the month-long Operation Mille.

The raids targeted what law enforcement believe is a cash cow for organised crime gangs, alleged to be involved in money laundering, Class A drug smuggling, and violence.

Police say searches and arrests were made in all counties in England and Wales.

Thousands of cannabis plants worth more than £3 million were seized by police in Cambridgeshire alone

Another 16,000 cannabis plants were seized across England's North East.

And in Kent, growing operations were uncovered in a disused commercial property and a barn, among other locations.

Watch Cambridgeshire Police carry out raids, seizing cannabis plants worth more than £3m

Steve Jupp, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Serious and Organised Crime, said: “We know that organised networks involved in cannabis production are also directly linked to an array of other serious criminality such as Class A drug importation, modern slavery and wider violence and exploitation.

“This operation not only successfully disrupted a significant amount of criminal activity, but the intelligence gathered will also help inform future law enforcement across the country."

He added: “Cannabis-related crime is often thought to be ‘low level’; however, there are clear patterns around the exploitation and violence organised crime groups are using to protect their enterprises.

“We also frequently find that cannabis production is just one aspect of their criminal operations and that they are complicit in wider offending which blights our communities.”

What is Operation Mille?

During June, Operation Mille, the largest of its kind and involving every police forces in England, Wales and Scotland, resulted in 200,000 cannabis plants being seized, along with 15 to 20 guns and more than 40 other offensive weapons.

Of those arrested, more than 450 were later charged.Around 11,000 officers were involved in the crackdown, during which £650,000 in cash was also seized.

Around £650,000 worth of cash was seized during Operation Milne. Credit: PA/National Police Chiefs' Council

Large-scale industrial units are used for cannabis farms but also empty residential homes.

Police say the buildings can become dangerous as a result of fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes and water damage.

In Wales, police stressed that cannabis factories present a 'very real local threat' after seizing around £8.7m worth of drug.

In the North East, co-ordinated efforts by the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU), Cleveland Police, Northumbria Police, Durham Constabulary and partner agencies, saw a total of 87 warrants executed and the seizure of over 16,000 cannabis plants.

While officers carried out 30 warrants and seized more than 7,000 plants valued at around £3.5m in Kent.

Around 15 to 20 guns and more than 40 other offensive weapons were seized as part of the operation. Credit: PA/ National Police Chiefs' Counci

Across Leicestershire, more than 9,200 plants with a street value of more than £7m have been seized.

The aim of the operation was to disrupt key sources of revenue and apprehend those involved in cannabis distribution.

How to spot a cannabis farm

Following the success of the operation, police are now warning the public abut the possible signs of cannabis farms.

The seven signs to look out for:

  • 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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