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A town has so many cannabis farms they are causing power cuts.
Police have launched a crackdown in Rotherham after electricity surges triggered by drug production plunged homes into darkness up to four-times-a-day.
In three months officers have shut 61 cannabis farms, seized 6,797 plants with a street value of £6.8million and arrested 25 suspected drug producers in the South Yorkshire town controlled by 17 organised crime gangs.
Officers say Operation Grow is vital both in keeping drugs off the streets and the lights on in people’s houses.
Local MP Sarah Champion said cannabis farms had become "standard" and were blowing the power supply "sometimes four-times-a-day".
It was having massive knock-on implications to both households but also local businesses.
She went on to admit that many of the farms were run by organised crime gangs.
"There's modern slaves that are physically inside the properties. And then rival gangs will have turf wars,’’ she added.
Indoor cannabis farms need artificial heat, light and humidity to function leading to gangs – including many from eastern Europe – stealing the energy needed to power them.
Some criminals have dressed as workmen and posed as power company staff to dig up pavements and tap into mains electricity supplies.
In the town’s Eastwood district streets are lined with police-raided properties sealed with metal shutters.
One neighbour said: "It was every day. No cooking, no cleaning, no radiators, because the gas boiler uses electricity.
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"You couldn't do anything, just wait for them until they turn it back on. But I'm not going to report it because I'm not a snitch.’’
Mohammad Mubashar, 30, was forced out of his home with his children when the power went off and "they couldn't tell us how long it would be".
"I've got to get them up with an alarm, feed them, bath them. So I had to go to my sister,’’ he said.
"My lights were like a Christmas tree going on and off.’’
Another woman said: "It's difficult when your child doesn't like the dark.’’
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Rotherham's community safety partnership, which includes the council and police, is working with the electricity board to drive cannabis gangs out of town.
Northern Powergrid, which supplies electricity to Rotherham, said: "We're working closely with South Yorkshire Police after power cuts in the local area were caused by suspicious overload activities.’’
District police commander Chief Supt Steve Chapman decided dedicated action was needed "at the point that we suddenly saw that people were starting to lose their electricity supplies and their heating".
"We cannot afford to allow organised crime to disrupt people's lives in that way. So it was at that point that we thought right, we're going to make a stance on this,’’ he went on.
Electricity North West, which supplies homes across the north of England, said it had noted more power cuts linked to cannabis farms in recent months.
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