How Albanian crime groups are turning Nottinghamshire warehouses and factories into large cannabis farms
Albanian gangs are smuggling and trafficking people into Nottinghamshire and making them work in large commercial cannabis factories, police have said.
Nottinghamshire Police have closed down 62 cannabis dens in the last three months, half of which were set up in commercial buildings such as disused factories and warehouses.
A number of people from Albania, who have no connection to Nottinghamshire, have been located inside some of these and held against their will.
There has also been seven cannabis burglaries, where criminals have entered addresses armed with weapons to seize control over another gang’s supply.
Residents have alerted police after seeing several people leaving an address armed with weapons such as machetes and carrying large bags of cannabis plants.
The most recent incident happened in Harcourt Street, Kirkby-in-Ashfield, shortly after 4am on New Year’s Day when a break-in was reported.
Inside officers found dozens of cannabis plants in multiple rooms, along with an array of sophisticated growing equipment.
Detective Inspector Paul Lefford from Nottinghamshire Police said some criminals had even decided to venture into cannabis growing as “an easy way to make money.”
But DI Lefford said growing cannabis was not “a victimless crime” and was linked to modern slavery, money laundering, and violence.
He told Nottinghamshire Live: “There is still this mentality that cannabis is a victimless crime. It is not just someone smoking a spliff. There is a sinister aspect behind it.
“We know there is links to Albanian crime groups on some of these large grows in commercial properties such as warehouses and factory buildings.
“We see Albanian victims smuggled and trafficked into the UK and put into these cannabis grows and promised a better life.
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“We are doing the detective work to find out who is running them. It is about following the chain and working your way to the top.”
More than £4m worth of cannabis plants have been seized by Nottinghamshire Police during the pandemic, some of which were discovered in people’s homes.
Last year, two were discovered in Bilborough and Eastwood, with more than £50,000 of cash seized during a police search of one address.
DI Lefford said some criminals had decided to grow cannabis in their own homes as another source of income – but it came at a risk and it wasn’t just being arrested.
“There is a difference between someone starting up one in their home, which is still illegal, and the large scale ones in disused warehouses, which is linked to organised crime with a higher potential for people to be exploited and forced to work in them.
“We are not seeing every cannabis grow limited to one criminal group. There are different criminal groups that are doing it or people who just want to earn a bit more money.
“I think a criminal’s perception is ‘it is an easy way to make money.’
But he said this can open criminals up to being burgled of their supply.
He said: “There has been seven cannabis burglaries in the last three months but we are mindful that might be under reported. People who grow cannabis are not going to report it to us.
“If people are part of a crime group then they know each other and know other criminals. It could be financial jealously that is behind it.
“If they are involved in a drug network then they will know who is growing it and try and take it on themselves.
“It will send a message – I am in control.
“It is significantly risky for the people who live there.
“They often attend with more than one person – several people who need to carry the cannabis and they need a vehicle.
“They attend with weapons because these are criminals burgling other criminals. They won’t know how many people are at an address.
“We don’t want to see a risk to the people who live next door who might be caught up in it. It is a risk that the wrong address could be targeted.”
DI Lefford said the launch of Operation Reacher in every neighbourhood in the county and community intelligence had led to more seizures.
He said: “Lockdown means a lot more people are at home and can see and report this activity to us.
“They are often reported by members of the public that are suspicious about a property due to smell, people coming and going, and no snow on the roof – which is another indicator.
“The drugs trade will never stop, that’s the frank reality behind it. But we are not having to police the night time economy in the city centre so we have more people on specific patrols.
“No one wants to live next door to someone growing cannabis and have that in their community.”
Anyone who believes they are living next or close to someone growing cannabis can contact Nottinghamshire Police in confidence on 101 or Crimestoppers.
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