NOSEY neighbours and observant landlords are the key to defeating cannabis farming in the region, according to experts.
A seminar on cannabis cultivation heard that large-scale farming of the drug was intrinsically linked to more serious, organised crime such as human trafficking.
Experts at the seminar, organised by Crimestoppers, urged communities to be more vigilant in spotting the signs of cannabis cultivation in their neighbourhoods, where one terraced house could harbour as many as 400 cannabis plants.
Landlords, Neighbourhood Watch representatives and members of the public were on hand at Darlington College as police officers talked about the impact of cannabis farming and listed tell-tale signs of cannabis cultivation.
Landlords should be wary of the organised crime gangs attempting to acquire rented properties in a bid to establish cannabis farms there, Acting Detective Inspector Neil Jones said.
They could help curb criminal activity by being aware of the common traits of cannabis farmers, who will often attempt to pay rent in cash and far in advance, will immediately accept houses, will appear unfamiliar with the area and – once tenants – will try to avoid letting the landlord into the property, often changing the locks.
Neighbours and landlords should also be observant when it comes to changes in a property or suspicious activity around that property.
Signs to look out for include people coming and going at unsociable hours, constantly covered windows, an excess of building or gardening waste, roof vents and high levels of heat and condensation.
Detective Chief Inspector Brad Howe said: “There’s a link between cannabis farming in communities and serious and organised crime and we will do anything we can to disrupt that criminality.
“There are a number of signals and indicators that may suggest criminality and we are asking people to be aware and report their suspicions to us.
“We don’t want people to think there’s a massive problem in Darlington and County Durham as there’s not but with this particular issue there are visible signs and we’d like people to know what they are and be vigilant.”
Today’s (Tuesday, July 15) seminar forms part of a country-wide operation run by Crimestoppers in a bid to tackle cannabis cultivation.
To report suspicious activity, contact the police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.