LAST week, Jill Theobald was invited along to see Rotherham’s Operation Grow team in action during a drugs police raid in Kimberworth. Here she catches up with Sgt Matthew Smith and Supt Andy Wright on the latest results and plans for more work to clamp down on illegal drugs.
TWO men have been remanded in custody and almost 160 cannabis plants were seized after the raid by drugs police last week.
The Alabanian nationals arrested after Rotherham’s Operation Grow team executed warrants at the semi-detached houses on Bennett Street on Wednesday morning have been charged with “being concerned in the production of a class B drug, namely cannabis” and remanded ahead of appearing at Sheffield Crown Court next month.
The men had each been sleeping in a narrow kitchen with security camera feeds on TV monitors, with the doors beyond opening onto cannabis farms.
Officers looking for the power supply believed one property had even been hooked up to the mains after noticing the pavement had been dug up and re-tarmacked — something operation lead Sgt Matthew Smith this week confirmed.
“Northern Powergrid did find an illegal joint onto their main line which resulted in them having to replace part of the main line servicing the street,” he said, describing it as “a known method of circumventing the proper power supply channels and payment”.
While unsure of how long the power was off to allow the line to be replaced, Sgt Smith said the Northern Powergrid team had been on site throughout the day and into the early evening.
Supt Andy Wright said: “It’s important people understand this is not just a Rotherham problem — this is a national problem.
“It has caused our communities some significant problems with the associated issues of anti-social behaviour, violence, and power outages and we are now seeing how worthwhile it is putting in the additional time and resources to tackle this challenge.
“Not only is there the positive impact on the community, but the disruptive effect on the gangs, criminals and facilitators behind these operations.
“That includes the landlords if they are complicit.
“It’s about making Rotherham a hostile environment for those people.
“The power outages, in particular, have a real impact on lives and livelihoods, especially with a lot of people now working from home.
“There’s the risk to neighbouring properties as well if they have circumvented the electricity supply, or, as we saw in this case, gone directly into the mains. The people doing this aren’t qualified or particularly concerned about the fire and safety risks involved which can quickly have a significant impact on not only the property they're using, but also neighbouring properties.
“This operation has, from the start, been a partnership approach with Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police. Working together we are better able to identify properties where this is occurring, identify links to unscrupulous landlords and those ‘higher up the chain’, obtain closure orders and seek to deliver long-term benefits to our communities.
“The community has identified these problems and it’s incumbent on us to deal with them — I think the results speak for themselves.”
Sgt Smith added: “We act on information provided by our communities.
“If you have concerns about drugs, or see anything suspicious, contact the police online, or by calling 101.
“Alternatively, you can remain completely anonymous by passing information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”