• Neighbours – you are the key. You should be suspicious if people are coming and going from the premises often and only staying for short amounts of time.
• Neighbours should keep an eye for industrial looking equipment going into the house.
• Landlords should also be suspicious if the tenant wants to meet in a different place other than the house to pay rent or discuss the property.
Drugs are a problem which can lurk closer than you probably think. But it is possible for you to do your bit to stamp it out – all you need to know is what to look for. DSI Steve Benson Davison from South Wales Police has some helpful tips on how to tell if your neighbour is growing drugs:
• Landlords – be aware that the individual paying the rent will usually want to pay cash up front and will try to encourage no visiting from the landlord. It’s a good idea for landlords to visit their properties and keep an eye out for tell-tale signs, like a strong smell coming from the premises or windows being blacked out.
• The growing farms for drugs are referred to as ‘factories’. The way in which the drugs are grown can vary from single plants in houses to a large scale cannabis production. The most common type of factory is found in residential houses. Walls are often knocked down so you are left with an empty shell that has been turned into a giant enclosed green house.
• You should also look for blacked out windows and there may also be considerable heat coming from the premises.
But you may not be the only person trying to spot a cannabis farm on your street. The sinister side to these booming businesses is that they have become lucrative targets for harder and more violent criminals looking to rob them. These people are constantly on the look out for farms within our communities, which in turn exposes the rest of us to potential violence. What’s the solution? The dealers and criminals I spoke with all said that legalisation would put them out of business.
Heat Those lights also give off a lot of heat, so the old theory was that the house growing cannabis in the loft would be the one with no snow on the roof in winter. But nowadays growers use internal tents, that isolate a lot of the heat. This makes farms harder for police to spot using their infra-red cameras.
Activity Not all farms are inhabited by the grower so watch out for signs that there is no one actually living there: unkempt front gardens, or if your neighbour never leaves out any bin bags on collection day.
Light Growers can’t get away from the fact that internal farming requires a lot of it: 2,000 watts running 12 hours a day in a small bedroom looks a lot like the sun, so look out for windows that are constantly blacked out to cover that up. Cannabis farms in spare rooms will have the tell-tale sign of curtains that never open.
Security Growers live in a paranoid world, always wondering when their door is going to get kicked in – not only by the police but by “enforcers”, violent criminals who make their living by stealing cannabis crops. For that reason many of them adopt Fort Knox-like security. Portcullises on the doors, bars on the windows and even CCTV cameras are not uncommon.
The latest Independent Drug Monitoring Unit report suggests there are now as many as half a million people growing cannabis in the UK, which equates to roughly one on every street. So how can you spot the cannabis farm next door to you?
Smell Follow your nose. A cannabis crop takes about three months to produce. During the final four weeks, the plants stink. Earlier this year, Crimestoppers helpfully issued cannabis-farm scratch-and-sniff cards to 210,000 homes in the UK to help you identify the exact bouquet.
Conor Woodman’s film Exposure: Britain’s Booming Cannabis Business is on ITV on 16 October at 11.05pm
I n the course of making a film about Britain’s cannabis industry, I have learned a lot about how to spot a cannabis farm. I have been schooled by policemen who raid them, gangsters who rob them and growers who set them up and produce more than 80% of the cannabis smoked in the UK today.
Do they have the curtains drawn all day long? Or have they put black-outs over all the windows? It might make it look like the house is unoccupied, but blacked out windows could well mean inside is really, really bright with all those strong lights.
Thousands of pounds worth of equipment is often needed for large-scale grows – have you seen lots of things being delivered to the house, or large items being taken in or out?
Police say that criminal gangs are increasingly renting out suburban homes to convert into cannabis factories.
4. Cannabis growing equipment transported to and from the house
It might sound obvious, but most cannabis grows are discovered by passers-by or keen-nosed residents catching a whiff of the drug's familiar smell. Police have even handed out scratch-and-sniff cards to help people recognise the scent.
Luckily, there are plenty of tell-tale signs which can alert people to a hidden cannabis farm on their street.
And they are urging people to be wise to any suspicious goings-on in their neighbourhoods.
5. Constant buzz of ventilation
If you can hear the constant noise of a fan, at all times of the day or night, chances are it could be acting as ventilation for the cannabis grow.
While some cannabis grows will be for personal use, many are part of a network of farms, masterminded by criminal gangs.