SOUTH Yorkshire had the highest ratio of cannabis factories found per 100,000 residents last year, new figures reveal.
A study by the Association of Chief Police Officers reveals that over the last 12 months there were 851 cannabis farms discovered in South Yorkshire – the equivalent of 64 per 100,000 residents.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said the high number of drug factories found in the county was due to the force taking a hard line and investing time and resources into smashing drug networks.
She said: “The fact that South Yorkshire has a high number of commercial cannabis factories being shut down shows how seriously the force takes the illegal cultivation and supply of cannabis, which in some cases, maybe linked to organised crime.
“The illegal production of cannabis is not a victimless crime and some criminal groups use this as an opportunity to fund their activities.
“South Yorkshire Police work closely with communities through safer neighbourhood teams which enables us to identify premises being used for this activity and take appropriate enforcement action.
“We are determined to continue to disrupt criminal networks and reduce the harm caused by those involved in the illegal production of controlled drugs.
“The figures reflect the positive action being taken by the force to prosecute offenders and identify, disrupt and dismantle organised crime groups.”
The study found that nationally more than 20 cannabis farms were discovered by police every day last year.
A total of 7,865 farms were found in the UK last year – up 15 per cent from 6,866 in 2009/10 and more than a 150 per cent up from 3,032 four years ago.
Scotland Yard Commander Allan Gibson, the lead on cannabis cultivation for the police chiefs, said: “Commercial cannabis cultivation continues to pose a significant risk to the UK.
“Increasing numbers of organised crime groups are diverting into this area of criminality but we are determined to continue to disrupt such networks and reduce the harm caused by drugs.
“This profile provides a detailed analysis of the current threat from commercial cultivation of cannabis and the work undertaken by law enforcement agencies to combat the threat.”