West Yorkshire Police have conducted a series of successful raids resulting in the seizure of cannabis valued at more than £4 million. The operation involved the execution of 50 search warrants as part of a nationwide campaign aimed at tackling organised crime groups (OCGs) involved in the drugs trade. A total of 46 individuals have been arrested for offences connected to drug trafficking in relation to this initiative.

Throughout the month of June, West Yorkshire Police focused on locating and searching cannabis cultivation sites in an effort to dismantle OCGs and disrupt their illicit revenue streams. This coordinated effort, known as Operation Mille, has yielded significant results, with over 8,000 cannabis plants seized, along with cash, weapons, and other illicit substances.

Detective Chief Inspector Jonathan Key, from West Yorkshire Police’s Programme Precision, which targets serious organised crime in the region, stated, “By targeting criminals engaged in cannabis production, we have disrupted their operations. This has been a well-coordinated approach to tackling the large-scale cultivation of cannabis in West Yorkshire. The cultivation of cannabis serves as a primary source of income for organised gangs. The link between serious crime and cannabis cultivation is undeniable – the drugs trade fuels gang violence in our communities and results in widespread exploitation and suffering.”

Operation Mille witnessed the collaboration of all 43 police forces across the country, as well as Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and various partner agencies. The objective of the intensified effort was to disrupt OCGs by severing a major source of their revenue, apprehending numerous individuals involved in criminal activities, safeguarding victims of exploitation, and gathering intelligence on the functioning of these networks.

The outcomes of Operation Mille in West Yorkshire include the execution of 50 search warrants across all five policing districts (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, and Wakefield), the seizure of 8,150 cannabis plants, and an estimated value of £4.3 million. Additionally, numerous Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) inquiries are currently underway.

Steve Jupp, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Serious and Organised Crime, emphasised the interconnected nature of cannabis production networks with other serious criminal activities such as the importation of class A drugs, modern slavery, and violence. He lauded the operation’s success in disrupting a substantial amount of criminal activity while also contributing valuable intelligence to inform future law enforcement efforts across the country.

Jupp further explained that although cannabis-related crime is often perceived as “low level,” it follows consistent patterns of exploitation and violence employed by OCGs to safeguard their enterprises. He stressed that cannabis production is frequently just one facet of these groups’ criminal operations, which plague communities with wider offending.

Collaborating closely with law enforcement agencies such as the National Crime Agency, Immigration Enforcement, the ROCU network, and other partner organisations, West Yorkshire Police have not only disrupted the criminal activities of a significant number of organised crime groups but also deepened their understanding of the full extent of their illicit operations.

Furthermore, the presence of cannabis factories poses a tangible local threat. These large-scale operations often cause extensive damage to the properties themselves, including fire hazards, illegal electricity usage, noxious fumes, and water damage.

Members of the public who possess information regarding potential cannabis factories or drug dealing activities are encouraged to report to their local police force via the online reporting system or by calling 101. Alternatively, anonymous tips can be submitted to Crimestoppers at 0800 555 111 or through their website crimestoppers-uk.org.

Recognising the signs that a property may be used as a cannabis factory can be instrumental in combating these illegal operations:

  • Frequent visitors at irregular hours during the day and night.
  • Windows that are blacked out or have condensation, even when the weather is not cold.
  • Bright lights illuminating rooms throughout the night.
  • Evidence of tampering with or altering electricity meters, along with the presence of new cabling that may lead to street lighting. Unusually high electricity bills may also be indicative.
  • The distinct smell of cannabis, which is often sweet and sickly, accompanied by the sound of fans.
  • A significant amount of activity or deliveries of equipment associated with indoor plant cultivation, such as heaters and lighting.
  • An excessive number of plant pots, chemicals, fertilizers, and compost.

The efforts of West Yorkshire Police in Operation Mille have not only resulted in significant seizures and arrests but have also highlighted the broader impact of cannabis-related crime on communities. By disrupting the operations of organised crime groups involved in cannabis production, law enforcement agencies aim to reduce gang violence, exploitation, and the overall harm caused by the drugs trade.