Wiltshire Police seize 100kg of cannabis as part of operation hitting OCGs
Main article content
More than 100kg of cannabis was seized in a single haul by Wiltshire Police as part of an operation targeting organised crime groups (OCGs) involved in the drug’s cultivation.
Across the South West, 67 people were arrested – including 18 in Wiltshire - while £6.8 million of cannabis and weapons including a 9mm pistol in Dorset were seized as part of the region’s ongoing collective work to target and disrupt OCGs harming our communities through drug supply.
The region’s five police forces, supported by the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SWROCU) and working with the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and independent charity Crimestoppers, also carried out 58 warrants and searches at commercial cannabis grows.
Within Wiltshire, nine warrants were conducted, 692 plants seized, 18 arrests made, five people charged and eight people released under investigation.
The South West’s results are part of a nationally coordinated operation, titled Op Mille, which ran through the month of June to execute 1000 warrants and unearth and disrupt OCGs by taking out a key source of their revenue, while simultaneously apprehending many of those involved, safeguarding those being exploited, and increasing intelligence around how the networks operate.
Wiltshire Police DCI Angela Shipp, the Force lead for the latest phase of the drugs operation, said: “People need to understand that, as this operation shows, cannabis cultivation is not a harmless or low-level offence.
“We know that it is a key source of illicit income for organised crime groups often involved in other serious and organised crime, including class A drug importation and supply, exploitation of vulnerable people through modern slavery, and serious violence as they compete for territory.
“The cannabis grows are also often set up in ways that are significant fire risks, potentially causing serious harm to neighbouring people and properties.
“Information from our communities is vital for us to tackle illegal drug gangs and identify vulnerable and exploited people.
"If you have concerns over drugs or drug cultivation in your area, please report it online, via 101 or anonymously through Crimestoppers.”
Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson said: “Every successful drug warrant carried out by Wiltshire Police, and across the south west region, is a step in the right direction and reinforces our collective focus on a zero tolerance approach to drug cultivation, drug dealing and abuse - not to mention tackling those high-harm crimes associated with drugs including modern slavery and human trafficking.
“Drug-related crime isn’t just a problem for urban police forces. As we have seen recently in Swindon, and elsewhere in the county, tackling drug crime and serious violence, requires collaborative working with a whole series of local government and non-government stakeholders and partners. Under the Serious Violence Duty, Police and Crime Commissioners have been tasked to pull together those relevant services to share information and ensure collaboration to target the causes, symptoms and consequences of drug abuse and the drug trade in order to prevent and reduce serious violence within our communities.
“Tackling crimes that matter to our communities and reducing violence and serious harm are clear priorities within my police and crime plan and for Wiltshire Police. This intensification work has, and will continue to, directly contribute towards Making Wiltshire Safer - and making the whole of the south west a hostile environment for drugs.”
As well as activity to pursue criminals involved in cannabis cultivation, forces have been looking to raise awareness of the dangers of such grows, which become dangerous due to fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes and water damage.
PCCs are writing to landlords across the region highlighting the issue and SWROCU are attending the Rent Smart event in Devon to speak with private landlords and letting agents.
Anyone with information about a potential cannabis cultivation or drug dealing can contact their local force online or via 101.