Home North London Cannabis farms busted by police quadruple across London since first lockdown

Cannabis farms busted by police quadruple across London since first lockdown

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The number of cannabis farms busted by the police across London soared during the pandemic it’s highest in five years.

But as the number of farms found quadrupled, the overall crime rate dropped in the capital as people stayed at home for the various lockdowns.

The Metropolitan Police recorded 437 crimes related to cannabis production in 2020/21, exclusive figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show.

READ MORE: ‘Tenants turned my 2 London homes into cannabis farms without me knowing and now I’ve got a £150,000 repair bill’

That was nearly four times higher than the 119 offences recorded the year before and greater than the total number of offences every year since 2016/2017.

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Over the last five years, Enfield has seen the most marijuana busts, with 66 offences taking place in the North London borough since 2016/17.

It was followed by Barking and Dagenham with 58, Newham with 56 and Croydon with 54.

Westminster, Islington and Kensington and Chelsea, on the other hand, saw the lowest number of cannabis farm offences recorded over the five-year period, at 10, eight and five cases respectively.

According to UK Research and Innovation – a public body funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – the lack of people moving around during lockdowns made it easier for police to track down dealers.

In London, the total number of crimes recorded by police went down by 18% in 2020/21, falling from 905,825 in 2019/20 to 742,330 last year.

However, the number of drug offences – including possession, trafficking and other crimes such as production – went up from 49,256 to 54,723.

The capital has seen a sharp rise in the number of farms busted

The capital has seen a sharp rise in the number of farms busted

Meanwhile, separate figures from the Home Office show that nationally, the number of possession of cannabis offences recorded by police went up from 113,663 in 2019/20 to 133,805 in 2020/21.

At the same time, the overall number of crimes recorded decreased from 6.1 million to 5.4 million.

According to the police the rise in recorded drug crimes has been driven by pandemic restrictions providing officers with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to target dealers.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Drugs, Deputy Chief Constable Jason Harwin, said: “During lockdown, the reduction in overall crime levels allowed officers to be redirected towards more proactive policing to tackle organised crime groups involved in the cultivation and distribution of illegal and dangerous drugs.

“We will continue to focus efforts on the criminals and organised gangs who are destroying lives and fuelling the violence we’re seeing on our streets. Our tactics are already showing some success, with a 13% increase between March 2019 and March 2020 in the overall amount of cannabis seized by police.”

Cannabis is currently considered a Class B drug – offenders can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both for possession, and to up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both for supply and production.

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For a first offence of possession of cannabis, as well as confiscating the drug, police are likely to give a cannabis warning – a written warning that does not show up on personal criminal records.

For a second offence, police can give a Penalty Notice for Disorder – this is an on-the-spot fine of £90 that must be paid within 14 days or the offender faces going to court.

If caught for the third time or if the drug is over a certain weight, police can make an arrest, which could lead to conviction in court and a criminal record.

According to Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, working in drug policy reform, decriminalisation – ending criminal sanctions for possession – would reduce the number of people being arrested and getting criminal records, which would be very welcome.

He said: “However, by itself it would not reduce the criminality associated with production and supply, unless small-scale home growing was also decriminalised, moving to a legally regulated market would substantially reduce the scale of illegal production and supply and its associated harms, including the people trafficking and slavery associated with some cannabis production in the UK.”

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