POLICE smashed their way into a Sheffield cannabis factory and seized £84,000 of plants in their latest assault on professional and highly organised drugs gangs.
Eight officers, accompanied by The Star, raided a four-bedroom terraced house on Walkley Road, Walkley, yesterday afternoon.
They seized 210 plants and arrested a Vietnamese man - who was hiding in the loft - on suspicion of cultivating drugs.
Neighbours said he moved into the house with one other person a month ago.
Detective Inspector Bob Chapman, of the South Yorkshire Police intelligence unit, said: “They have only just got this factory going.
“In another month they would have twice as much cannabis growing - and if they know what they are doing they could grow three crops a year.
“That makes this house worth a potential £500,000 a year.”
Police officers were today searching for a woman they believe also lived in the house.
Forensic officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency were last night dismantling the sophisticated equipment at the property.
Two rooms were kitted out with sophisticated UV lights, dozens of fans, ventilation shafts and irrigation tubes, and were packed with young plants.
There was evidence three other rooms were ready to be converted for optimum growing conditions, with stacks of compost, pots and state-of-the-art lighting equipment.
In the bathroom huge bottles of liquid fertiliser and growing hormones were ready for mixing.
Only one room in the house was set aside for living, with a grimy mattress on the floor beside a small shrine and a television.
DI Chapman, whose team has raided 200 cannabis factories in Sheffield in the last year, said a large proportion were run by Vietnamese gangs.
“We are talking about organised gangs, operating from an epicentre in London,” he told The Star.
“They let out houses across the country in huge numbers, move in electricians to fit them out, and then install gardeners to tend the plants 24 hours a day.
“The gardeners are often illegal immigrants, moved from house to house to grow these crops.
“They maximise the growing space so the people who work for them live in these tiny spaces and rarely leave.”
He added: “The gangs expect to lose a number of houses to police raids or rival criminal gangs. But they accept those losses.”
He said it was extremely difficult to prosecute the people behind the factories.
“The problem is tracing these people because there is no record of them, no financial records - it’s a nightmare,” he said.