A TOTAL of 325 cannabis farms have been uncovered by Northumbria Police in the last five years.
The figures come as senior police officers voiced concerns over a shake-up to the way drug barons are producing cannabis.
A study by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) reveals that more than 20 cannabis factories and farms were discovered by police every day last year.
In total, they seized drugs that could sell for more than £100million on the streets.
In the period 2009-2011, 1.1million plants were seized with a street value of £207.4million.
In 2011/12, Northumbria Police unearthed 71 farms, up from 57 the previous year.
The highest number of cannabis farms discoveries was in 2009/10, when officers raided 114.
Senior officers said the size of the farms was reducing as criminals spread the risk and cut back on their losses by employing more gardeners to manage small sites.
There has been a return to transforming houses into drug factories and police raiding them is seen as a “short-term solution”.
Durham Police discovered 129 cannabis farms since 2007. In 2011/12, they unearthed an estimated 52 farms, compared with 42 the previous year.
The highest number of farms – 936 – were found in the West Yorkshire force area.
The Devon and Cornwall force recorded the highest rise in the number of farms since the last report in 2009/10, up 1,664 per cent from 11 to 183.
Allan Gibson, Acpo lead on cannabis cultivation, said: “Commercial cannabis cultivation continues to pose a significant risk to the UK.
“Increasing numbers of organised crime groups are diverting into this area of criminality but we are determined to continue to disrupt such networks and reduce the harm caused by drugs.
“This profile provides a detailed analysis of the current threat from commercial cultivation of cannabis and the work undertaken by law enforcement agencies to combat the threat.”
Northumbria Police Detective Chief Inspector John Lingwood added: “Tackling drugs and drug-related crime remains a priority for officers and we actively target those who are using their homes for growing large quantities of cannabis.
“The large-scale cultivation of cannabis is closely linked to other organised criminal activity and we are targeting the people behind these farms as well as the so-called farmers.
“In addition to tackling and dismantling the cannabis farms themselves we will continue to do everything in our powers to strip those responsible of their criminal assets using Proceeds of Crime Act so that they do not benefit financially from their crimes.
“The majority of cannabis farms that we uncover come from information given to us from our communities and we need this to continue.
“We are working with landlords and residents to educate them about the signs that properties may be being used for growing cannabis.
“Anyone who sees anything suspicious where they live should to report it to police, especially instances where people might be coming and going from houses that aren’t lived in.”
Last week, Sunderland police raided a house in Otto Terrace, Thornhill, where they found more than 500 plants, with an estimated street value of more than £150,000.
A total of £14,000 cash was also seized at a house in Mount Road, Barnes.
Nine people were arrested on suspicion of drugs-related offences.