ARRESTs of people caught growing cannabis across South Yorkshire have more than doubled – and are helping rid streets of organised crime, say police chiefs.
Figures revealed exclusively by The Star today show officers arrested 599 men, women and teenagers in connection with cultivating or producing the class B drug last year, compared to 250 arrests made in 2009-10.
South Yorkshire has become a hotspot for the production of cannabis and courts have taken a tough stance by sending offenders to prison.
But detectives believe the increase in arrests is cracking down on the problem while curbing serious organised crime often funded by the massive profits of cannabis farms.
Det Chf Insp Bob Chapman, who has worked in drug jurisdiction for seven years, said: “Some of these cannabis farms and houses are linked to organised crime, serious amounts of money might come from these premises, so I think the increase in arrests is a bit of a success.
“We do take it seriously, we do put people through the courts and we do in Sheffield keep a lid on it.
“Sheffield does not have the problems that other cities like Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham have with organised crime and a small portion of that I would say is to do with the fact we try to control cannabis cultivation.”
The figures - obtained under The Star’s Right to Know campaign - show people as young as 13, and as old as 73, were arrested for cannabis crimes over the last three years as ‘more and more people’ turn to growing the drug.
They cover Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley from 2009-10 to 2011-12.
Easily available hydroponic equipment, which can be bought at specialist shops, and growing information on the internet, are also thought to be behind the rise.
DCI Chapman said: “More and more people are growing their own cannabis because of the ease of buying hydroponic equipment and the information on the internet.
“It has become the drug of choice, if you like, for the people who choose to partake in drugs and because of that that’s why you see a rise in arrests.”
Sheffield’s top judge Alan Goldsack QC last month vowed to continue locking up cannabis growers despite the introduction of new sentencing guidelines and publicly backed The Star’s own campaign to crack down the drug.
Today a warning to growers was issued by DCI Chapman as he pledged South Yorkshire Police would not tolerate the crime.
He said: “South Yorkshire Police take this very seriously and where we have information about cannabis farms or that it is being grown we will take action and we will put people before the courts.
“We’ve seen a stance by the jurisdiction in Sheffield in relation to cannabis farms and cultivation where quite a few people now have been receiving custodial sentences.
“That sends out the right message that if you are going to do this, it will be taken seriously.”