12/09/2012

Boom In Cannabis Trade Leading To Increase In Gang Violence

A senior police officer has warned of an upsurge in shootings and gang-related violence related to a ‘boom’ in the cannabis trade.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Ward of Merseyside police, who chairs the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, says the punishments for those caught cultivating and dealing in cannabis are not a deterrent and the drug is now causing greater problems for police than class As.

According to Ward, an "explosion" in cannabis production has resulted in bitter struggles between rival gangs keen to exploit the ease by which cannabis can be manufactured and what they regard as easy money.

Shootings in Merseyside have soared by a third since April and officers believe their experience is mirrored across the regions.

Ward, who also heads the force's elite Matrix unit that works to combat drug and gun crime, said: "A lot of these shootings are linked to activity around cannabis.

"We are seeing big increases in cannabis production on Merseyside. Individual groups are fighting turf wars … We have huge issues around cannabis."

Ward added: "There has been an explosion in the market for cannabis. Unlike class A drugs, which the criminals can't make themselves, there is the opportunity to grow cannabis in the bathrooms or bedrooms of houses. They can make a lot of money very quickly at less risk [to themselves] and less risk in terms of sentencing.

"Criminals who have previously been involved in something else are drifting into the cannabis world … The amount of money being made by criminals should be reflected in the sentencing."

(H)


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