We are investigating after we found two properties in Southampton containing an estimated 1782 cannabis plants including fully grown plants and saplings. There were also empty pots indicating a previous crop which had already been harvested.
The plants were discovered within two disused commercial properties, one on High Street, the other on Castle Way on Wednesday, 3 February.
We believe both are connected.
Two men in their 20’s were located inside the premises and were initially arrested on suspicion of producing a Class B drug however they are now being treated as potential victims and are being supported by specially trained officers.
It is estimated the plants and previous crop are worth over £3.8 million.
Chief Inspector Ricky Dhanda said: “We know that a lot people will think, it’s just cannabis, but we want to stress that any production of drugs is linked to hidden harm. Large scale operations like this are often run by organised crime gang. Those gangs are likely to engage in very serious violence involving weapons, such as firearms. They may also take advantage of vulnerable people, exploiting them or making them work in servitude.
“The electrical requirement to grow this many plants is also really dangerous and can be a huge fire risk, putting neighbouring properties, and lives in danger.
“It is not just cannabis, it’s linked to serious criminality. That’s why we are really keen to hear from people who suspect there is cannabis cultivation or drug related activity going on their neighbourhood.
“Every call you make to us is logged and helps us build up an intelligence picture about what might be happening in your community. This allows us to take action and prevent your neighbourhoods from harm.”
Enquiries are ongoing.
Can you spot the signs of cannabis cultivation?
1. There's a strong, sickly smell. 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.
2. High levels of condensation. Landlords might notice damp on the walls or peeling wallpaper, while from the outside a neighbour might spot condensation on the windows, even when it's not the depths of winter. The condensation may well be due to inside having been turned into a makeshift greenhouse.
3. Constantly covered or blacked out windows. 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.
4. Cannabis growing equipment transported to and from the house. 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?
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.
6. Strong, constant lighting day and night. Cannabis needs light to grow, so watch out for homes with bright lighting at all times of the day and night. Lights will often be on a timer switch, coming on in the middle of the night.
7. Lots of power cables and rocketing electricity bills. The lights, dehumidifiers and heaters take a lot of electricity. Growers will often hack into the electricity wires before the meter to that individual house, and so bypass having to pay for the electricity. If you are a landlord who gets a copy of the bill, has it dropped suddenly, or gone up suddenly? If you are a neighbour and your bill has rocketed – maybe your next door neighbour has hacked into your mains and you're paying to grow their drugs?
8. Heat, birds on the roof, and a lack of snow. Cannabis factories produce a lot of heat, which can cause tell-tales signs, especially in winter. When it snows, the roofs of cannabis farms can be obvious as the snow melts, meaning it is probably the only house on the street without a snow-covered roof. Birds also like roosting on a nice warm roof...
9. Unsociable comings and goings. Are there lots of unfamiliar faces turning up at the house at any time of the day and night? It could just be a popular family, but maybe it's something more sinister.