Cannabis seizures up as police weed out criminals

The number of cannabis plants seized by Yorkshire’s biggest police force soared by more than 70 per cent last year, according to new figures.

A man smoking a cannabis joint

West Yorkshire bucked the downward national trend in 2014 for the number of seizures of illegal plants, with 15,327 taken by the county’s police compared with 8,960 in 2013.

The 71 per cent increase is the fourth biggest among the nation’s police force areas last year, according to new statistics from landlord insurer Direct Line.

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During the same period the number of cannabis plants seized in neighbouring North Yorkshire dropped by 80 per cent, from 6,594 to 1,304, one of the largest falls in the country.

South Yorkshire Police seized 21,731 plants in 2014, an increase of 14 per cent and a total giving the county the third highest rate of seizures of any force during the year. The number of seizures by Humberside Police dropped slightly.

Nationwide, a third of police forces saw an increase between 2013 and 2014, though the overall number of seizures dropped 10 per cent.

In West Yorkshire, recent high-profile seizures include the discovery of a major cannabis farm in a disused building just off Kirkgate in Wakefield city centre earlier this year.

A member of the public alerted police to suspicious activity behind disused premises. When officers arrived they found an estimated 2,000 plants and cultivation equipment in the building.

West Yorkshire Police recently announced that lights seized from a cannabis farm in Headingley, Leeds, were being used by rugby league club Leeds Rhinos to grow the grass at the stadium.

Force Drugs Coordinator Bryan Dent said: “Cannabis is harmful to individuals, harmful to our communities and has intrinsic links to organised crime groups.

“The tactics and expertise we have developed over the years have seen us have significant successes in identifying and shutting down cannabis farms, and that work will continue.

“Those involved in the production of cannabis are more likely than ever to get caught and will face significant penalties through the courts.

“A key part of our work to tackle the issue is the information we receive from local communities about residential or commercial premises that appear to be being used for the production of cannabis.

“We encourage people to keep letting us know their suspicions so we can act upon that information.

“There are a number of tell-tale signs that can give away the location of a cannabis farm. The most obvious is the sickly sweet smell of the cannabis itself. Other indicators can be blacked-out windows or constantly closed curtains.”

Detective Inspector Graham Bulmer, South Yorkshire Police’s force lead for drug prevention, said: “South Yorkshire Police is pro-active in tackling the use of and supply of drugs in our communities.

“A number of pro-active initiatives have been carried out by police and partners to take drugs off the streets of South Yorkshire and make our communities safer.

“We have also encouraged reporting of drug use and supply in our communities and when we receive information and intelligence we always take action.”

According to Direct Line, the most seizures last year were made by the Metropolitan police in London, with the total of 59,002 equating to 2,936 plants per million properties. But Wiltshire’s police force seized more cannabis plants per household than any other police force.

Direct Line says landlords should vet their tenants carefully as cannabis farms can cause significant damage to their properties and potentially void their insurance policy.

Jane Guaschi, Business Manager at Direct Line for Business said: “The consequences of a cannabis farm on a landlord’s property can be financially catastrophic.

“Landlords should check to see if their insurance policy covers them for malicious damage as it’s not just the structural damage that could have insurance implications, it’s the financial headache of the clean-up that will hurt the landlord’s back pocket.

“What’s more, landlords could face loss of rent and the stress of the legal wrangling during periods of repair or eviction.”