Ninety cannabis plants are being found in Sussex every day as organised gangs look to make easy money from drug dealing.
The latest Home Office figures show more than 33,000 plants were seized in the county last year – nearly 20% more than the previous year.
Detectives say organised crime gangs are using the drug as a way to fund bigger operations, sometimes elsewhere in the country or abroad.
In the last eight days alone, 600 plants were found in two separate operations in East and West Sussex.
The number of plants seized in Sussex rose to 33,046 in 2011/12, from 27,654 in 2010/11.
The figure was higher than for any other English police force except Manchester, West Midlands and the Metropolitan Police.
Nationally, the number of plants seized fell 14.1% year on year, and in the south-east the number of plants seized fell 5.5%.
The total number of cannabis seizures in Sussex last year rose 9.3% to 4,996 – the highest figure since 2007.
Cannabis seizures accounted for 74% of all Sussex Police drug finds – and nearly 81% in England as a whole.
Detective Chief Inspector Ali Eaton, of Sussex Police’s serious organised crime unit, said the increase in seizures and plants found reflected the police’s determination to crack gangs.
She said: “We often find organised criminals use cannabis cultivation as a way of bankrolling more serious crimes, such as heroin importation, robbery or getting firearms.
“Organised crime is national, if not international.
“Cannabis growing in Sussex might be funding an organised crime group elsewhere.”
Proceeds of Crime
She said plant seizures meant those gangs were being disrupted, and created the chance for police to launch Proceeds of Crime Act cases to strip criminals of their cash.
An Argus investigation into cannabis farms highlighted claims that individual growers are selling the bulk of their crops to bigger dealers, and selling off the rest in small amounts for extra money.
Landlords say damage worth thousands of pounds is caused when flats and houses are converted into drug factories.
On Monday, December 5 detectives led an operation in Canadia Road, Battle, which resulted in the seizure of 300 plants and harvested cannabis, worth up to £50,000.
A 78-year-old woman and a man and woman in their 50s were arrested and released on bail.
On Thursday, November 29officers working on Operation Accent, which targets crime among Eastern European migrants, seized 300 plants from an industrial unit at Forsters Yard in Quayside, Littlehampton.
Anyone with information about cannabis factories is asked to call Sussex Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Woman sexually assaulted in Brighton alleyway
- Man arrested after five Brighton and Hove betting shops are vandalised
- In The Dock: Three people who have appeared in court from Hove
- Residents evacuated in flat fire
- Kitten sealed inside plastic box and thrown over Portslade fence