Suffolk: Sky-high increase in Suffolk cannabis factories

SUFFOLK: Cannabis production in the county’s home-made drug factories has hit sky-high levels, it emerged today.

More than four times as many plants have been found growing at properties in each of the past two years than were discovered between April 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008.

Figures from Suffolk Constabulary show 11,249 cannabis plants were seized in raids during 2009 and 2010.

This compares to 1,321 plants seized in 2007/08, which in itself was nearly double the 734 plants discovered in 2004/05.

There has also been a dramatic rise in properties being used to grow the drug.

Although some are operating on a small scale, others have links to multi-million pound set-ups run by gangs.

In the past it was noticeable that south-east Asian gangs were behind many of the cannabis factories. They would install a ‘gardener’ who would oversee the crop. In most cases he or she would be an illegal immigrant working to pay off a debt owed by them, or their families in their homeland, to the crime gangs.

Most Read

The gardeners would often carry out their duties fearing for the lives of loved ones.

However, recently it has been noticeable that an increasing minority of those who have been charged with cultivating cannabis in Suffolk have been British citizens.

During the past two years there have been 37 raids on cannabis factories which are almost always domestic premises that have been converted into conditions which encourage the growth of the Class B drug. Twelve of those raids have been in Ipswich.

The more potent type of cannabis, known as skunk, has also featured more prominently.

A total of 51 arrests have been made during the raids.

Nationally there are nearly 20 commercial cannabis factories being found by police every day. The total across Britain for 2009/10 was 6,886 – more than double the 3,032 discovered two years previously.

Detective Inspector Bernie Morgan, of Suffolk Constabulary, said: “There has been an increase over the last few years in relation to this type of criminality. I would say it is an indictment that we have been more proactive, and it is also based on community intelligence.

“Clearly this is a lucrative business for the criminal. Obviously there is a market for it, whether it is local, regional, national or international.”

Det Insp Morgan said if anyone suspects a property near them is being used for growing cannabis they should telephone police on 01473 613500 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.