An increasing amount of smaller properties are being used to grow cannabis as figures reveal a rise in sites harvesting the drug in Sussex.
Figures obtained by The Argus show there were 73 cannabis cultivation sites discovered in the seven months between April 2013 and October 2013.
This compared to just 41 that were discovered in the year between April 2011 and March 2012.
- Man living in derelict pub: ‘I want to be king of the squatters’
- City is beacon of economic dynamism
- I had to move home because of Tourette’s
- Gatwick in two-horse race for expansion after Boris Island ruled out
- Planning proposal to convert offices into 30 homes
The rise has also coincided with cannabis cultivators preferring smaller domestic properties instead of larger commercial growing sites.
A Sussex Police spokesman said there were several reasons behind the shift.
One of them is the wider availability of equipment from an increase of hydroponic shops.
This means some growers can bypass criminal gangs and avoid being caught up in organised crime.
Another reason is that crime gangs can “spread the risk” by setting up cultivation sites at various small premises.
Should one be discovered it means the quantities found might result in a more lenient punishment and is less likely to jeopardise the whole operation.
Sussex Police said it is “determined to continue to disrupt networks like this and reduce the harm caused by this type of offending, the effects of which can have a really serious impact on local communities”.
A spokesman added: “We work with property managers and private landlords to tackle this illegal activity and to disrupt not just organised crime groups, who are often behind these crimes and who are often involved in other crime as well but also to disrupt smaller conspiracies. Our 'Landlords Guide' is equally applicable to the issue of small grows.”
The force is asking residents to help in the fight by looking out for suspicious properties that could be housing a cannabis cultivation site.
Signs to look out for can include covered over windows, no one appearing to live there, comings and goings at odd times, for example to water plants, extractor fans in walls, and finally a distinct sweet herbal smell.
People who see anything suspicious should call the police on 101 or independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.