UK police forces detected more than 6,800 cannabis farms and factories in the UK in 2009/10, says the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
The ACPO report 'UK National Problem Profile: Commercial Cultivation of Cannabis' also reveals that:
- Over 1.3 million plants with an estimated value of £150m recovered in 2009/10
- The demographic profile of criminals involved in the cultivation of cannabis is changing, with more white British people involved than ever before
- The majority of offenders are between 18 and 35 years old
- Premises used are becoming more varied with farms now uncovered in industrial buildings, former pubs, cinemas, nightclubs, hotels, print works and banks
- The largest factory found was in an industrial unit in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire where more than 7,600 plants were recovered with an estimated value of £2.5m
- Criminals involved in cannabis cultivation are also involved in other types of crime such as counterfeiting currency and DVDs, money laundering, tobacco smuggling, immigration crime, firearms, blackmail, prostitution, theft and people trafficking
Metropolitan Police Commander Allan Gibson says the findings come as no surprise:
"Between 2004 and 2007, 800 cannabis factories a year were being uncovered by police. That rose to over 3,000 a year in 2007/08 and over 6,800 in 2009/10. This increase can be attributed to a number of factors, including an increased focus by law enforcement. The police response is now stronger and more effective through better coordination and intelligence sharing between forces and other agencies and more covert operations against the operators.
"The level of publicity around cannabis since its reclassification in 2008 has meant that more members of the community are now reporting any unusual signs of habitation in buildings and houses which is leading to more detections.
"This profile gives us a better understanding of the current picture of the commercial cultivation of cannabis in the UK and the need for continued robust enforcement."