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Police Uncover Cannabis Cartel

Wessex Scene, 3rd April 2006

Police raids of nine Southampton homes over the past few months have resulted in the seizure of an estimated £1 million worth of cannabis plant. This staggering estimate is regarded as conservative, based upon a single crop of the plant at each property. The homes have been described by police as "cannabis factories" where the drug was being produced in bulk. It is thought that the police have broken up a network in the city that forms part of the national production and supply of the Class C drug.

In the latest raid, at a semi-detached home in Wilton avenue, Shirley, £200,000 worth of the drug was uncovered; this was one of the biggest single hauls so far, though it was in relation to the size of the house being used for production. Police had to remove more than 800 plants at various stages of growth. Officers were led to the address, and to an address in Radcliffe road, Northam, where they uncovered £90,000 worth of cannabis plants, by previous raids. These raids included homes in the Basset area on 13 February, where they found £120,000 worth, and a raid at a property on the Inner Avenue on 9 February, where just over £100,000 of the plant was discovered. The cannabis factories are believed to be linked in a network and Det Sgt Dave Jackson claims that the "series of cannabis factories we are finding in Southampton … fits a national intelligence picture".

The police also discovered that roughly £64,000 worth of electricity had been stolen by bypassing the main grid. This was used to power the heating and lighting systems that were used to encourage growth, the equipment for which has also been seized. Upon searching the houses, officers found that they had been almost entirely converted, including the roof space, into what was allegedly an intensive growing operation. All the properties that have been raided have been privately rented and police are encouraging diligence from both landlords and the local community to help them stamp out drug-related crime.

All those arrested throughout the series of raids have been bailed by police pending further enquires.

The raids come at a time when the Hampshire police, and police nationwide, are cracking down on the illegal drugs trade. Operation Phoenix, which has already seen two high profile dawn-raids, is ongoing proof of the crackdown against drug related crime.

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