AN increasing number of rented properties in East Sussex are being used as illicit drug production sites.
As a result, Sussex Police have launched a new initiative working closely with landlords to crack down on the practice.
They have produced a special on-line and print briefing “Keeping Illegal Drugs Out Of Rental Properties - A Guide For Property Managers” which is being distributed to landlords’ organisations throughout Sussex.
Detective Chief Inspector Ali Eaton said; “There has recently been a noticeable increase in local cannabis cultivation especially, and amphetamine illicit drug production, in rented properties, and particularly a move from industrial or commercial sites to smaller residential properties, in Sussex and across the country.
“Our guidance is aimed at increasing knowledge and highlighting the signs of drug production for private landlords who may be unaware of the risks and dangers to the community.”
DCI Eaton reported that the majority of these sites were growing cannabis, but police have also unconvered other types of drug production.
Last month over 6,000 suspected ecstasy pills, and 360grammes of suspected ecstasy powder, along with cocaine, a pill making machine, and several thousand pounds cash were seized when policeaided an address in Saltdean.
Police report that in the last two-and-a-half years, 567 commercial cannabis cultivation sites were discovered by police in Sussex, the majority in residential properties that had been rented.
One cannabis cultivation site contained 250 plants and was costing the energy company £100 per day. The site had been running for six weeks.
Nationally, the number of commercial cultivation of cannabis farms has continued to rise although the increase has stabilised somewhat.
DCI Eaton said that in Sussex they were working with property managers and private landlords to tackle this illegal activity.
“We are working to disrupt organised crime groups, who are often behind these crimes and who are often involved in other crime as well.
“We are determined to continue to disrupt networks like this and reduce the harm caused by this type of offending, the effects of which can have a really serious impact on local communities.”
Police are advising landlords and neighbours to watch out for signs which can include covered-over windows, no-one appearing to live in the premises, or comings and goings at odd times, for example to water plants. Also, neighbours should be alert to a distinct sweet herbal smell.
“Local people are often our best sources of intelligence,” added DCI Eaton.
David Cox, Senior Policy Officer at the NLA, said; “We welcome Sussex Police’s campaign to help reduce incidences of cannabis factories in the area. These are an on-going problem for landlords and despite carrying out the necessary checks, we regularly hear of cases where landlords’ properties are used for illegal purposes.
“To help limit the risk of rented properties being used as cannabis factories, the NLA advises landlords to take full references from their tenants, avoid taking long term rents up-front and regularly check their properties with the tenants permission. Developing links to neighbours can also help as it encourages the community to quickly report any possible problems to the landlord.”
The Guide, available on-line at http://www.sussex.police.uk/media/1778968/landlordsguide-v2-web.pdf was launched at a local meeting of the National Landlords Association (NLA) in Bognor Regis on Wednesday 3 October.