Police seize £400,000 drugs as major cannabis factory busted
Plants and electrical equipment found during workshop raid
Police have raided one of the largest cannabis production operations found in Northern Ireland.
In a major drugs bust yesterday morning, detectives from the PSNI's Organised Crime Branch seized 800 cannabis plants initially estimated as being worth around £400,000, along with a substantial amount of electrical equipment.
The sophisticated cannabis factory was uncovered at workshop premises in Millisle, Co Down.
Within the factory there was also a processing facility and space for drying the product.
No arrests were made during the raid, however police said their investigations are continuing.
The policing operation was launched following reports from within the local community.
"This was a substantial production operation, one of the largest ones we have uncovered in recent times," said Detective Inspector Andy Dunlop.
He added: "It was quite sophisticated in the way it had been set up, almost like a processing facility, with young plants, the remnants of a previous harvest, space for drying the product and space for waste products."
Police have made a number of high-profile drugs raids this year.
In October officers uncovered a cannabis factory in Portadown with an estimated street value of £1m worth of the drug.
The factory was discovered after two officers smelt an unusual aroma in the air.
Although no arrests were made during yesterday's raid, Mr Dunlop said enquiries will be continuing over the coming days.
In September the PSNI issued 'scratch and sniff' cards bearing a cannabis aroma in a bid to get the public's help in countering the seeming rise in cannabis factories.
The cards contain an element that replicates the smell of the drug in its growing state, which is a different aroma to when it is being smoked.
Police began distributing the cards after crime figures revealed a 44% increase in cannabis factories across Northern Ireland in 2013-14.
"Yesterday's operation was partly due to information provided by the community as a result of our scratch and sniff cannabis awareness campaign, which we launched in September," said Mr Dunlop.
He added: "This initiative was promoted with Crimestoppers to help people spot the tell-tale signs of cannabis factories.
"The objective was to raise public awareness so that more people report suspicious activity to police or, if they wish to remain anonymous, to contact the Crimestoppers charity."
Mr Dunlop said the campaign was delivering positive results for police. But he asked the public "to keep their eyes, ears and most definitely their noses open".
Anyone with concerns about drug cultivation, dealing or supply in their community can contact police on the 101 non-emergency number.
"This information can result in searches being conducted which lead to drugs being seized or cannabis farms being closed down," Mr Dunlop added.
The PSNI has uploaded advice and guidance on YouTube http://youtu.be/t9VV5SRv1r0 to help the public recognise the tell-tale signs of a cannabis factory. Signs include a strong and sickly sweet smell, a property constantly covered or with blocked off windows, with visitors calling at unsociable hours and high levels of heat and visible condensation.