POLICE have delivered a tough message to cannabis growers in Sheffield after 15 arrests were made and drugs worth more than £50,000 were seized in a week-long crackdown.
Detectives raided 16 premises ranging from family homes to business premises - bringing the total number of search warrants executed this year for suspected cannabis factories to around 300.
It comes after the city’s most senior judge the Honorary Recorder of Sheffield, Judge Alan Goldsack QC, warned that he would jail cannabis growers after a big rise in the numbers of offenders coming before his court.
Acting Detective Chief Inspector Bob Chapman, whose Threat Harm and Risk Team mounted the Cannabis Action Week from Monday to Friday, said: “Our operation was to tackle low-level dealers who cause immense problems for communities.
“It will not only have a positive effect within the community but also prevent serious criminality from gaining a foothold.
“Sheffield is one of the safest cities for a number of reasons - one of those is that police react quickly in relation to information about drug dealing, gang members and firearms. I think the majority of Sheffield people will be very pleased with the activities that we are undertaking.”
Acting DCI Chapman added: “We are delighted with the stance of members of the judiciary in recent months on this issue.
“My message to anyone tempted to grow cannabis is that cannabis is not a harmless drug - it is extremely detrimental to people’s lives.
“The strength of some of the skunk cannabis on sale is, in my opinion, of a strength comparable to Class A rather than Class B drugs.
Officers from Acting DCI Chapman’s team raided 16 addresses in Parson Cross, Southey, Shirecliffe, Shiregreen, Intake, Crookes, Manor, Arbourthorne, Hackenthorpe, Lowedges, Hillsborough and Frecheville.
At 12 premises, drugs were found, with cannabis plants growing in lofts, cellars and spare bedrooms.
Officers yesterday swooped on a home on Silkstone Road, Frecheville, where a 25-year-old was arrested.
Police said they have seen a surge in the amount of cannabis produced through small-scale farms at domestic and small commercial addresses in Sheffield by residents hoping to make ‘a few hundred pounds’ and believe they will not go to prison if caught.
But Acting DCI Chapman said: “If you are going to engage in this activity then the chances are sooner or later the police will find out what you are doing, will put you before the courts and you will now risk a custodial sentence.”
He added that growers are also putting their families’ lives at risk.
Thousands of pounds of growing equipment including lights, ventilation and oxygen systems had been installed at most of the properties raided, with electricity meters bypassed at some of the addresses to keep running costs down.
Acting DCI Chapman said: “Tampering with electrical systems causes potential for house fires and can put families at risk. Cannabis growers also have the danger that criminal gangs will find out what they are doing and pay a visit as well as our officers.”
* CANNABIS plants can be grown in two ways - using hydroponics equipment where cannabis saplings are planted in rock wool and supplied with water and nutrients via a complicated feeding system.
The less sophisticated ‘earth method’ involves growing the plants in pots and watering using a can.
At almost all premises searched, other growing equipment was found including lights, ventilation systems and oxygen canisters worth thousands of pounds.
Officers say the amount of equipment indicates that growers are not acting alone and must have received help from other criminals to fund set-up costs at their cannabis farms.
Once planted, cannabis plants, which are almost always grown from cuttings, take three to four months to grow before their first harvest and can then produce a crop every three to four months.
One large plant can produce up to 20 ounces in a single yield and each ounce is worth £180 - giving a total street value of up to £3,600 per plant per yield.
Raids in numbers:
16: Number of search warrants executed over five days between Monday and yesterday - with drugs found at 12 of the premises.
£48,000: The street value of cannabis plants seized.
120: Number of cannabis plants recovered.
£4,800: The value of other drugs recovered.
15: Number of people arrested.
£52,800: The total value of all drugs seized.