Most people think of trafficking in terms of sex trafficking. But statistics are showing that sex trafficking may be only about half of the trafficking of human beings going on in UK at the moment. One other form of trafficking (amongst several) is where young Asian boys are trafficked to this country to cultivate cannabis on cannabis farms. They are kept as virtual slaves in what may be perfectly ordinary-looking residential premises. With the UK police discovering about 20 cannabis farms a day, this is obviously a significant trend. We thought our readers might appreciate these tips from the police for spotting ‘the cannabis farm in your neighbourhood.’ Clearly, this could be an effective means of fighting trafficking anywhere in Britain.
Police say cannabis growers are moving away from commercial and industrial sites
towards ordinary houses. But how can you spot a cannabis farm in your street?
Cannabis growing in the suburbs is soaring, with about 21 farms or factories being
discovered every day, a new report by the Association of Chief Police Officers
says. The problem has persisted for a while, with insurer Aviva reporting a 30%
year-on-year increase in cannabis damage claims last year as criminals turned
to rented houses to cultivate plants. Now the Association of Chief Police
Officers (Acpo) says most of the cannabis consumed in Britain is homegrown and
is urging the public to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour in their
neighbourhood. And householders might just want to know for their own sake too.
Thermal imaging equipment can detect heat surges caused by growing lamps High
electricity bills can be a giveaway. Neighbours may give anonymous tip-offs if
they suspect illegal activity. People cultivating cannabis farms may stay on
the move to avoid detection. Permanently shuttered or covered windows can be a
warning sign. So how can you spot an illegal drug farm on your doorstep?
Unlike many criminal enterprises, there are telltale signs of cannabis cultivation,
according to commander Allan Gibson, Acpo’s lead officer on the subject. The
first thing to look out for is people setting up shop, he says. “Most of
the properties are rented accommodation, and when they move in, they’ll bring a
lot of equipment with them. “It will be ventilation equipment and lighting
equipment for irrigation, grow bags, soil – it should stand out as unusual,
which is why criminals tend to try and move in when they will be
unobserved,” he says.
Gibson says the next thing cannabis growing gangs tend to do is adapt the premises –
often by creating venting through floors or re-wiring – but this can easily go
unnoticed as plenty of new tenants renovate properties. Another thing cannabis
growers’ neighbours might notice is their absence – or their coming and going
at odd hours. “They won’t be sociable neighbours, they will want to keep a
low profile,” says Gibson. “So if cannabis growers live in
permanently, they will barely be seen – and if they are maintaining more than
one growth site, they will come and go in the early hours or at night,” he
says. So far, so hard to detect, it seems. But Gibson says there are a couple
of obvious indicators that should be easier to pick up on. Cannabis’s
distinctive strong and sickly sweet smell is one of them. The other is
covered-up windows – often constantly pulled curtains or black-out blinds – so
nobody can see into the premises and the right temperature is maintained. Rick
Stephens, from West Midlands Police’s cannabis disposal team, agrees windows –
usually blackened or “polythened” – are a common giveaway, but he
says criminals are getting increasingly sophisticated about covering their
tracks. “In some cases a bay window is created, with a overnight light or
TV set up, so the premises looks normal – but actually it is just screened off,
with cannabis plants lined up behind,” he says.
Police found 6,866 farms in 2009-10 And a projected 7,865 in 2011-12 More farms
located in smaller residential or domestic premises. Police recovered more than
1.1m plants with street value of about £207m during two-year survey period.
Stephens says lighting – which can be spotted by hi-tech thermal imaging
cameras which display the heat given off by the strong lights – can also alert
suspicious neighbours. “If we are talking about 500 plants, and work on
the presumption that there can be six plants for a set of lights, that’s 80 or
90 lights or transformers that are needed.” He says initially plants require
about 12 hours of artificial light every 24 hours. Growers tend to do this at
night, which means it can sometimes be spotted. ”
At one house in Wolverhampton, neighbours saw bright lights coming out from a vent
under floorboards, under which cannabis was being grown,” he says.
Concerned neighbours can also look out for condensation on windows, or unusual
levels of heat coming from a property as a result of lights, according to Bryan
Dent, a drugs co-ordinator at West Yorkshire Police. “It’s going to be considerably
warmer than normal room temperature – that will manifest itself in heavy
condensation,” he says. Dent says criminals also often tend to bypass
electricity meters, or break into the main meter, to fund the huge wattage used
up by the lamps and the fans. “This might manifest itself in strange
electric cables, or digging underground to join into street furniture supplies,
such as a lamp post,” he says.
For those who think they are on to cannabis-growing gangs, Gibson says there is one
other key tell-tale sign – the criminals do not appear to be environmentally
friendly either. “Growing material like compost and soil is often
contained in plastic bags, so we often see them dumped by rubbish bins,”