The number of cannabis farms discovered in Tameside has rocketed, according to new information from police.
In 2008, the drug was found being grown in just three places, as opposed to 43 places in 2010.
Police say that figures have risen nationally, and that tip-offs from the public are helping them find the farms.
Inspector Karen Lindsay from the Tameside Division of Greater Manchester Police said: “Residents should look out for suspicious activity around properties.”
She spoke of how cannabis farmers like to target rented properties, and how landlords should be wary of people who pay months in advance.
“If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Tameside Police also warned people to look out for people arriving and leaving properties at random times of the day and night, pungent aromas in the area, and large amounts of electrical wiring, light fittings, chemicals or compost.
Wiring installed by growers has led to large house fires in the past, on occasions completely destroying properties.
Police are confident that the operations in place to target cannabis farmers are working.
“Latest figures show that we have made positive steps to deal with the production and cultivation of cannabis in Tameside,” said Inspector Lindsay.
The biggest problem area in Tameside was proved to beAshton-under-Lyne, where there were 11 cannabis farms found. Two were found in Longdendale and Droylsden.
Kylie Jackson, who lives and works in Ashton town centre, said: “Cannabis has a strong presence in Ashton, when I’m on my lunch break I can smell people smoking it in the streets.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that people are farming it here, but it is a real shame for the town’s reputation.”
Alan Kibble, Operational Manager for Prevention Services at New Charter Housing Trust Group inAshton-under-Lyne, told me how they are working closely with the authorities to crack down on cannabis farms in the area.
“Our team are working with the police once a week doing raids.”
“Sometimes even before we opened the front door we have discovered that a property is being used for cannabis farming,” he said, speaking of how it can sometimes be easy to find the properties, even if it isn’t so easy to track down the criminals who may have fled the scene.
“Nine times out of ten the electricity usage is phenomenal,” he said, “the growing of cannabis also produces a very strong smell which becomes noticeable to neighbours.”
Alan told me how New Charter has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy when it comes to drugs on its properties.
He also spoke of how people reporting their suspicions has helped housing companies and the police to target the problems.
“It is public awareness and non-acceptance. People want to get rid of that kind of activity from their neighbourhoods,” he said.
“People are on long waiting lists for houses, and some properties are being used for purely criminal selfish motives. There are a lot of emotions when the public report these incidents.”
Anyone who is suspicious of cannabis farming in their area can contact police with information on 0161 872 5050.