Sunday July 24 2022 saw the discovery of a sizeable cannabis factory in a one-time police station in East London. This was on Manchester Road on the Isle of Dogs. Peter Golds, an exasperated Isle of Dogs councillor, remarked to the Evening Standard: “Two years ago, we found a cannabis factory in a school in the borough and now this.”
Gold further further bellyached that there have been problems with anti-social behaviour in Tower Hamlets for years. Nevertheless, police stations have closed down, and now, there remains only one “proper” station, in Bethnal Green.
There have been no arrests. Police continue to investigate. A police spokesperson remarked that the police station was flogged off to a private company in February 2022, so it isn’t Met property. Land Registry records, however, don’t list the new owner and show that it still belongs to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime. Per the office of the Mayor of London, the station had “no public access function.” It took just five months to turn it into a cannabis factory.
More police stations transformed into cannabis factories
This occurrence isn’t confined to a police station in East London. Half of Britain’s police stations have closed since 2010. The Home Office claims this is for “a range of reasons.” One is greater use of online crime reporting where once, people would have gone to a police station. Another is new digital technologies that allow officers to perform services for which they would previously have had to return to a police station. An example of new-fangled technology rendering police stations unnecessary was Nottinghamshire police replacing its station in Eastwood with a webcam in 2014. This enabled people to speak to an officer eight miles distant.
Over 1,000 cannabis plants were grown in the first floor and loft of Failsworth police station, which is in Oldham, Great Manchester. Police officers on patrol noticed the building was unsecured and entered to investigate. Two camp beds left at the scene led police to believe the people growing the plants lived on-site. The station opened in 1892 but closed in 2013 and was sold off in 2016. The cannabis factory, worth an estimated £1.5 million a year, went undiscovered until 2019. Electricity was being stolen by means of a bypassed electricity meter. A gardening club in Earls Lodge received the gardening equipment found as a gift. One officer commented that “It was a bit surreal” to see the inspector’s office full of root balls and empty pots.
In 2019, around 100 cannabis plants were found at a former police station on Clanage Road in Bristol by a telephone engineer. He described it as “the sort of thing you see on TV” and complained that the episode had left him “shaken.” There was plastic sheeting, halogen bulbs and plant pots. The electricity meter was bypassed once again.
Cannabis plants were also found at a former police station in Winchmore Hill, Enfield, northeast London in 2021. The Grade II listed building was sold for £950,000 in 2015 with the intention of converting it into six flats. Two men found themselves under arrest.
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