The drugs den next door

By Marcus Dysch, June 3, 2009
Drugs factory: hundreds of plants were grown in the dining room

Drugs factory: hundreds of plants were grown in the dining room

A cannabis factory capable of producing £800,000 worth of drugs a year has been uncovered at the heart of the north London community.

Around 1,000 plants were discovered during a police raid at a five-bedroom house in Downage, Hendon, last Friday morning. The road is home to dozens of Jewish families and properties regularly sell for more than £1 million.

It was the largest-ever find by officers in the borough of Barnet.

Two weeks ago officers uncovered 600 plants at a house in Mill Hill, and another raid took place in Edgware two months ago.

PC Jim Kellett, who leads the operation, said: “There is no danger to the neighbours. The factories are run by big gangs and there’s a lot of money in it for them. They put them in quiet, suburban roads out of the way. We are finding one a week.”

The organised gangs, usually from the Far East, pay rent up front to landlords before kitting the properties out with expensive equipment, including hydroponic growing systems.

The sophisticated set-up in Hendon was capable of producing four crops a year, each worth around £200,000.Alterations to the Downage house caused £20,000 of damage.

One Jewish neighbour, who did not want to be named, said there was no indication that the property was being used as a drugs den. The raid, he said, had also gone unnoticed: “It was Yomtov so people would have been going for walks or coming back from shul. It’s extraordinary that nobody heard anything.”

PC Kellett added: “The landlords should be asking more questions. It’s not normal for someone to come along and pay £16,000 rent up front.”

In January, the JC revealed that an alarming rise in the number of cannabis farms in north Manchester had led to an unprecedented wave of drug use among young Jews.

A woman has appeared at Hendon Magistrates’ charged with producing cannabis. She was remanded in custody.

Last updated: 3:35pm, August 13 2009