POLICE have spent almost £450,000 in less than a year dismantling cannabis farms across the Midlands.
The £434,000 cost of the work, carried out since last summer, was revealed for the first time by West Midlands Police.
Traditionally, police officers who swooped on cannabis factories also had to empty them, often taking them away from their front-line duties for an entire shift.
To combat the problem, police last year set up a team of cannabis ‘dustbusters’, made up of civilian staff who are sent in to clean up makeshift drugs dens.
And the team has helped to free up officers’ time to investigate those behind the cannabis dens and return to the beat.
The number of sophisticated drugs farms found hidden away in houses and business premises in the West Midlands has almost quadrupled in recent years.
A total of 174 factories were found in 2004 but this rocketed to 672 – almost two a day – by 2008.
There were 500 factories found between April 2008 and May 2009.
The factories have also been growing in sophistication, with gangs setting them up in underground cellars and basements in an effort to disguise the tell-tale heat signatures that can be picked up by thermal imaging cameras on board police helicopters.
Crime scene investigators teams take a small sample of the plants that are being grown for evidence purposes.
The rest of the plants, fertiliser and equipment have to be emptied from the property ready to be incinerated.
On February 2, the Cannabis Disposal Team reached the milestone 100th job since formation.
The team’s “greatest success” came a few days later when they stripped an estimated 6,000 plants from the biggest drugs factory smashed in the West Midlands.
Officers discovered the £2 million drugs den hidden inside an industrial unit in Camden Street, Hockley after being called to an break-in at the property.
As they searched the scene in Camden Street, they found about 6,000 plants inside.
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