Homeowners are being urged by police and estate agents to watch out for the tell tale signs of neighbours converting their premises into cannabis farms.
It follows the latest farm to be discovered at an address in Tolworth, Surrey, which resulted in two arrests.
Police suggested homeowners may not know if a cannabis factory has been set up in a next door property. But they urged the public to look out for signs in a bid to tackle crime and public safety.
As well as being illegal, growing cannabis is dangerous to those living in neighbouring properties, they said. It can be a major fire hazard due to the lights, the electric fans and the tampered with electricity supply.
The properties are typically rented, but those growing the cannabis are unlikely to ever live at the address, the police warned.
Edward Foley, of estate agents Winkworth, said: “While we don’t get much of this in Wimbledon Village, I know for a fact that several cannabis farms have been found in recent years a short distance away in Merton Park, Wimbledon Chase and South Wimbledon. I sit on the Merton Park Police Ward Panel and I am always amazed that when discovered how much damage is done.
“Often the loft has been used as well with growbags full of earth packed up there with heat lamps and it can take thousands to put right. Some of the properties that I have been aware of have often been owned by landlords that have either not used an estate agent to let their property or been attracted to an agent offering lower than average fees to attract business. The landlords, thinking they are saving money, often end up with thousands of pounds of damage, weeks of inconvenience and of course loss of rental income. I would always recommend using an agent that is a member of ARLA and or NALS and that checks references for the tenants and don’t take shortcuts. Often the gangs behind the cannabis farms conduct other criminal activities from the address which could lead to further problems when you come to sell the property and will probably have implications on your credit history.
“Of course, if you see a property with black bin bags covering the windows from the inside call the local police and let them investigate. They often work with the energy suppliers to combat this and of course they can use the thermal imaging from the police helicopter to check if there is an abnormal amount of heat inside the house.”
Police urged homeowners to ask the following questions if they think a nearby property is being used to grow cannabis:
• Are the windows of the property permanently covered from the inside?
• Do people visit the property at unusual times of the day or night?
• Does no-one appear to be living at the property?
• Is there a vent protruding through the roof or a rear window?
• Is there a pungent smell coming from the premises?
• Are there compost bags or gardening equipment lying around outside?
• Is there a lot of noise coming from the equipment, such as cooling fans?
• Have a large number of pots and lights been moved into the premises at the same time?
• If in a terraced house, do shared walls appear wet to the touch?
• Are powerful lights being left on overnight?
If you suspect that a property is being used to grow cannabis, contact your Safer Neighbourhoods Team or by dialling 101. If you don’t want to speak directly to the police, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. Crimestoppers is an independent charity, and not part of the police.
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