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Cannabis farms are responsible for a quarter of all electricity stolen in UK

There has been a notable increase in landlord insurance claims where properties have been damaged by people using them to grow cannabis, new figures show. 

Fresh analysis by Direct Line for Business reveals a sharp rise in the number of police investigations into the theft of electricity, where people have tampered with a gas or electricity meter to distort the recording of the actual energy used in England and Wales, owed in part to cannabis farming, particularly in rental properties. 

When it comes to theft of electricity, analysis of 2019 data reveals that there were 2,200 cases in 2019, up 13% from 1,950 in 2018, and in almost a quarter - 23% - of cases, police suspected electricity was being stolen for the cultivation or manufacture of illegal drugs.  

Somewhat surprisingly, three police forces across England and Wales accounted for almost a third - 32% - of all investigations into the theft of electricity, which should act as a stark waning to landlords operating in these areas. 

Greater Manchester Police handled 14% of all investigations into the theft of electricity since 2017, followed by West Yorkshire Police at 12%, and Merseyside Police at 7%. 

West Yorkshire Police had the highest number of investigations where it was suspected the power stolen was being used for the manufacture of illegal drugs, with 257, or 43%, of the 602 theft of electricity cases recorded between 2017 and the end of June 2019 being drug related.

Police forces with highest number of investigations into energy abstraction

Police force

Investigations into the illegal abstraction of electricity

2017-2019

Greater Manchester Police

710

West Yorkshire Police

602

Merseyside Police

376

Lancashire Constabulary

358

Metropolitan Police Service

333

Source:  Direct Line for Business, 2019

Cannabis seizures represented 72% of all drug seizures in England and Wales last year, with a total of 98,000 seizures across all police forces.  

The Metropolitan Police alone carried out 25,880 seizures related to cannabis, accounting for 26% of the England and Wales total.

West Yorkshire Police (3,649), West Midlands Police (3,605) and Sussex Police (3,599) also made significant seizures.

Police forces with highest number of investigations into energy abstraction related to the cultivation of illegal drugs

Police force

Investigations into the illegal abstraction of electricity related to the cultivation of illegal drugs

2017-2019

West Yorkshire Police

257

Merseyside Police

120

Lancashire Constabulary

102

Staffordshire Police

81

South Wales Police

64

Source:  Direct Line for Business, 2019

Sarah Larkin, landlord product manager at Direct Line for Business, said: “Illegal cannabis farms pose a huge threat to the health and security of neighbourhoods across the country and are a major concern for landlords. 

“Landlords can unwittingly become victim of unscrupulous drug dealers who abuse their properties and transform them into cannabis factories.  Not only can these landlords find themselves involved in a police investigation, but they often have to contend with thousands of pounds worth of damage caused to their properties.” 

Signs a property may be being used as a cannabis farm:

  • The tenant wishes to pay cash upfront for the lease and is keen to discourage any inspections of the property
  • Windows and vents sealed or blocked off to prevent heat or the smell of cannabis escaping
  • Tampering with the electricity meter or wiring
  • Mould, condensation and excess humidity in a property
  • Fertiliser and an excess of gardening equipment for the size of the property’s garden
  • Fortification of the building, such as an increased number of locks or window bars installed
  • Noise and light pollution from ventilation fans and lamps
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