A week of police action which has taken tens of thousands of pounds worth of cannabis off the streets and seen a dealer jailed has prompted renewed focus on the international criminal gangs involved in the supply of illegal drugs.
Police in Bedfordshire have continued a crackdown on cannabis cultivation and drug dealing throughout February.
This reflects growing concerns locally that organised crime gangs involved in things like county lines are increasingly recruiting and exploiting children into dealing the Class B drug.
Bedfordshire Police has recently mapped a number of organised crime groups linked to the western Balkans believed to be involved in large scale cannabis production and supply locally.
Crime groups from the western Balkans, such as Albania, Kosovo and Serbia, have established a high profile and growing degree of influence within UK organised crime and have considerable access to the UK drug trafficking market, particularly cocaine and cannabis.
On Thursday, February 18, officers discovered more than 100 cannabis plants in a property in High Street, Dunstable, and on Wednesday, February 17, two cannabis factories in Kent Road and Tennyson Road, Luton, were discovered and dismantled.
Five people were arrested in Luton on suspicion of possession of cannabis and the investigation is ongoing.
Recently a man was arrested on suspicion of possession of cannabis following a series of warrants, while roads policing officers discovered a large quantity of cannabis plants in a van on the M1 and arrested six people.
A drugs market profile in Bedfordshire carried out in 2019 found that there were 34,000 users of illegal drugs in Bedfordshire, almost one in 10 people aged 16 to 59. Drug users in the county were estimated to be spending around £59 million on cannabis every year.
Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Glynn, from the force’s intelligence unit, said: “It is essential we continue to crackdown on those responsible for both Class A and Class B drugs supply in our county.
“Organised criminal gangs use drugs as their main source of income, and growing and selling cannabis is a key part of this business model. It is relatively cheap to produce and there are thousands of customers in Bedfordshire alone to sell to.
“These gangs then deliberately exploit young and vulnerable people, and drive much of the violence and antisocial behaviour that blights our communities.
“These groups are commonly involved in the cultivation of cannabis and large factories for production. They are then using the returns to fund the supply of Class A drugs, and are involved in firearms trafficking, money laundering, modern slavery and human trafficking.
“We are determined to make Bedfordshire a hostile environment for anyone attempting to deal drugs in our county, but we need your support. If you have any information or concerns about activity in your area, please report it and help us crack down on organised crime.”
In February 2021, Mohammed Khan, 33, of St Mildreds Avenue, Luton, was sentenced to two years and six months in jail for possession with intent to supply cannabis and for being concerned in the supply of cocaine.
In August 2019, officers stopped a hire vehicle during proactive patrols in locations identified as hot spot drug dealing areas.
Khan was identified as the driver of the vehicle and when he was searched officers found 26 wraps of cannabis, three wraps of cocaine, as well as a further two bags of cannabis concealed in the car.
He also had a quantity of cash and several phones in his possession.
Sentenced at Luton Court, Khan received 12 months for possession with intent to supply cannabis and 30 months for being concerned in the supply of cocaine, to run concurrently.
A drug dealer will often carry multiple phones, have large sums of money and in some cases use hire cars in the hope they are not picked up by police cameras.
If you have information about drugs activity taking place please report it to 101 or via Bedfordshire Police’s online reporting centre.
All of these reports are fed into police intelligence systems and can help officers build up a better picture of organised crime.
You can also report information anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.