Kirsty Hume and Rachel Kendall were on patrol in Holbeck yesterday (Feb 12) when they noticed a pungent smell coming from an industrial unit off Bath Road.
Officers broke into the property and found a sophisticated growing operation, about 1,000 plants in five rooms and living quarters with a bed and cooking facilities.
The plants would have had a potential street value of more than £500,000.
PC Pat Kenning, of City Neighbourhood Policing Team, worked as part of a drugs team for more than a decade. He said: “This in terms of the set-up this is one of the most professional operations I’ve seen.
“Someone’s taken care here which makes you think they intended to stay for a while.
“They aren’t amateurs, they’ll probably have a number of grows ongoing at the same time.”
The two-storey unit contained a sophisticated lighting, ventilation and heating system and plants at various stages of growth. An apparent rota of tasks, written in a foreign language, suggested the factory was being run by Vietnamese growers.
PC Kenning said: “It’s likely that we’ve got someone in here probably imported into the country who is practically kept as a slave to look after this place.
“To pay off their entry into the country they’re forced to mind cannabis factories. There’s an organised crime gang behind it. The people who tend the farms are in effect victims themselves.”
Forensic investigations will now take place along with other inquiries to track down the people responsible. All the plants, along with the growing equipment, will be seized.
“It’s going to keep us busy for the next few days, clearing it out,” PC Kenning added.