Drugs Farm Uncovered
In the past the majority of cannabis sold in Britain was imported but now most is 'homegrown' in factory set ups like this. Ordinary houses on respectable estates are increasingly being used this way,
Police have uncovered one of Leicestershire's biggest-ever cannabis growing operations following a raid on a disused factory.
More than 1,000 plants, with a potential value of more than £1 million, were found on Tuesday - just a couple of weeks before many would have been ready to hit the streets.
Police also found young plants and packs of leaves which had been harvested and dried, ready for sale.
The set-up, in a complex known as the Konfidence Works, in Arthur Street, Barwell, is one of the largest cannabis growing operations ever found in Leicestershire.
The crop - which is thought to be a highly-potent variety - is thought to be the work of organised criminals.
Inspector Martyn Ball, of Hinckley police, said the set-up was not just a "cottage industry".
Police were still dismantling the factory last night - two days after they first discovered it - and no arrests have yet been made.
The criminals had rewired a section of the building's electrics to power the high-voltage bulbs used to grow the plants. They had also installed a complicated ventilation system, partly to mask the smell of the plants.
Insp Ball said: "This is serious, organised crime. It would have cost something in the region of £20,000 to £30,000 to set this factory up.
"There were 600 to 800 mature plants which were two or three weeks from being harvested, so this is a good result for us. We are taking a tough stance against drugs and need people to help us, and this is another step in reinforcing that message.
"We need the community to work with us and tell any suspicions they have about any kind of drug-related criminality. Without their help, our intelligence dries up."
People who live and work in the Arthur Street area were surprised by the discovery.
One woman said: "The use of drugs in Barwell is no big shock, but I never realised anyone could get away with growing cannabis like this."
Another said: "It's frightening because I've heard so many times that these places can go up in flames very easily."
Cannabis factories are notorious fire hazards because of the use of high-powered lamps and the criminals' ham-fisted attempts to rewire buildings to suit their needs.
Last year, a judge hearing a cannabis factory case at Leicester Crown Court said at least 50 had been discovered in Leicestershire in 2007.
Judge Simon Hammond suggested gangs were earning up to £500,000 a year per house.
He said: "It is a very significant problem and represents a considerable hazard to the community as they use an incredible amount of electricity - provided by bypassing fuse boxes to tap directly into the mains, causing house fires.
"The rewards for the organisers are huge, bringing in up to £500,000 a year."
Tell-tale signs of cannabis factories include windows permanently covered from the inside, visits at unusual times, no signs of permanent residence or a vent protruding through the roof or a window. A pungent smell or noise from equipment, including fans, could also be indicators of a cannabis factory.