Hundreds of cannabis farms found across London, official figures show

Police have discovered hundreds of cannabis farms in London over the last few years, official figures show.

One cannabis farm is foundevery two days in the capital, according to the Scotland Yard data.

The full scale of cannabis farming operationshavebeen revealed in figures obtained via a freedom of information request.

The figuresshow that from January 2016 to April 2018, the police uncovered 314 cannabis farms, with instances of more than one farm appearingon the same street.

There were143 found in 2016, 134 in 2017 and in four months of 2018, 37 were found.

Cannabis farms, or factories, were found in every single borough of London, with a high amount being found in south London .

A policeman who works in Croydon , Sutton and Bromley alsorevealed that he has encountered a serious problem of Vietnamese teenagers who are being forced to work in such farms.

Detective Superintendent Lee Hill said there is a “human, emotional level” to recovering cannabis farms because he is often finding children being exploited and in dangerous situations.

Vietnamese boys and young people, he found, are being asked to watch over properties in case of police raids or rival gangs arriving.

He said: “I’ve recovered children who are being exploited. They are there to protect the properties.”

He added this was a “big concern” to police, sayingthat often they are encountering victims of modern slavery and the operation of farms is “destroying young people’s lives”.

Of all the boroughs, Croydon had the highest number of cannabis factories, with 30 in total being found.

DSI Hill explained that the number in Croydon was high “for a number of reasons”.

Police raid large cannabis farm in Bexley(Twitter/ BexleyMPS )

Its large population – the biggest in London – was one, as well as the area having gang and violent activity in it.

He said: “I think we can make links to gang activity. Some of the recoveries are within gang territory areas. A lot of it does comes down to organised criminality.”

He added: “There’s a link between violence and drugs, we do recognise that drugs underpin some of that.”

He said: “When we look [at the number of] these raids, probably two thirds comes from information that has been generated by Crimestoppers and community intelligence.”

From there, DSI Hill said the police are “really proactive” and “robust” in their approach to uncovering such farms.

After Croydon, the borough with the second highest number was Lewisham, 18, then Newham , with 17 and then Lambeth , with 16.

By contrast, the boroughs with the lowest number of factories were jointly Wandsworth and Kensington and Chelsea, with only two.

Addresses across the capital where factories were found have also been revealed by the police.

Busy high streets such as Kingsland Road , in Dalston and Streatham High Road , in Streatham were among the 292 streets the police said factories were found.

DSI Hill explained that, historically, farms were uncovered in industrial estates but the police is finding it more common to find them in attics, or residential properties.

The numbers of factories found do appear to be falling, though.

In 2016, there was 143 found and in 2017, this number fell to 134.

Although it is too early to tell about the numbers in 2018, DSI Hill says this is because locating and uncovering cannabis farms is a “priority” for the police.

A professionally lit and irrigated cannabis farm in Woolwich

Peter Reynolds, from CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform said he believed the number of farms in London would have been higher.

Mr Reynolds posed this may be because the police are not as tough as they once were in terms of cracking down of cannabis possession, saying they were “disinterested”.

He added it was “right” the Metropolitan Police were discovering farms and prosecuting though.

He said: “There’s just as many, if not more [farms] then there has been. It’s absolutely right that the police should crack down on major operations.

“These are operations ran by wicked people that are associated with violence and trafficking. It’s a good thing to see operations like that stopped.”

Mr Reynolds argued it would be safer for all parties concerned if the distribution of cannabis was done legally.

He said: “You can get it properly run, under licence and employing people properly, regulated and safely.”

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