Five men have been arrested following a police operation tackling drug crime in the area.
The warrants were part of a national focus on the disruption of cannabis cultivation which has been running alongside a regional focus on drugs and modern-day slavery known as Operation Scorpion.
“Our officers have been targeting organised criminals who are growing cannabis and using this to harm our communities – something that we are committed to tackling.
“The operation involves Avon and Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire, and Wiltshire Police, working collectively with Police and Crime Commissioners, British Transport Police and the Southwest Regional Organised Crime Unit, supported by the charity Crimestoppers.
“The operation has been running alongside Operation Mille, which was launched in March 2023, and is a nationally co-ordinated drugs enforcement operation principally targeting cannabis factories operated by organised crime groups.”
Officers made a number of arrests during the warrants; including a 51-year-old man from Camborne has been bailed until Thursday 14 September and two men aged 28 and 24, both from South Wales, and a 37-year-old man from Plymouth, have been released under investigation pending further enquiries.
Idajet Beqiri, aged 24 and of no fixed abode, was charged and pleaded guilty on Thursday 29 June to being concerned in the production of a controlled Class B drug, namely cannabis. He will be sentenced on Thursday 27 July at Exeter Crown Court.
Police have been working with partners such as housing associations, local councils, electricity companies and drone teams, to build intelligence collection plans, to ensure officers are in the right place at the right time.
The most recent warrant, which happened on Wednesday 28 June, saw officers seize drugs with an estimated street value between £116,480 and £349,440.
The pre-planned warrant occurred at a disused building, which was once a popular nightclub, on Torwood Street in Torquay.
Det Supt Doughty continued: “Around thirty officers and staff were involved in the warrant which was led by the Torquay Neighbourhood team while supported by other teams. The Devon and Cornwall Police dog unit was also utilised to check the building for any other suspects who could have been hiding.
“Using the element of surprise, officers forced entry into the building early last Wednesday morning. Thanks to the use of Torbay Council CCTV, the offender was located hiding on the roof. He was arrested and taken into police custody and subsequently charged.
“We were informed of the suspected grow through intelligence we received from the public- such information is vital and we rely on our communities to report suspicious activity to us.”
The raid (pictured), saw officers find a total of 416 cannabis plants which were seized from the address with a potential yield of between 11.5kg and 35kg.
Det Supt Doughty said: “All five South West Police Forces have joined together to send a clear message to organised criminals and those who cause harm in our communities, that there is no place for them in our region.
“I would like to thank our communities for the intelligence that they continue to provide us with and remind everyone how they can spot the signs of a cannabis factory in their area:
· Blacked out windows or condensation on the windows, even when it is not cold outside.
· Bright lights in rooms throughout the night.
· A powerful, distinctive, sweet, sickly aroma and noise from fans.
· An excessive amount of plant pots, chemicals, fertilisers, and compost.
· Electricity meters being tampered with or altered and new cabling, sometimes leading to street lighting
· Lots of work or deliveries of equipment to an address, particularly those associated with growing plants indoors without soil such as heaters and lighting.
“Cracking down on organised crime is everyone’s business. Your information can help us identify these criminal gangs and help us safeguard vulnerable victims and protect them from individuals who exploit them for their own gain.
“We will continue to execute these warrants, target these organised gangs, and protect our communities.”
Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “I would like to thank Devon and Cornwall Police and our Operation Scorpion partners for preventing this significant quantity of drugs from hitting our region’s streets.
“The production of cannabis causes untold misery in our communities and very often these so-called farms are hidden in plain sight, not only in abandoned and derelict buildings but also in what appear to be unassuming residential properties, and so I would urge anyone who has information about such activity in their neighbourhood to let Crimestoppers know anonymously.
“Tackling the issue of drugs in our communities is a priority in my Police and Crime Plan, and together with the region’s four other police and crime commissioners I am committed to driving home the message to dealers and criminal gangs that our region is no place for drugs.
“This latest round of Operation Scorpion is yet again proving that collaborative working can have a real and lasting impact on the presence of illegal drugs in the South West.”
To report any suspicious activity in your area, information can be reported to the police here – Contact us | Devon & Cornwall Police (devon-cornwall.police.uk)
Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers via this link or by calling 0800 555 111.