NPAS joins forces in 'unprecedented' drive to target organised crime

Thursday 6 July 2023

Helicopter and aeroplane crews from the National Police Air Service have been working with police forces across England and Wales in an unprecedented police operation against organised crime. 

At a scale and pace not seen before, police have coordinated over a thousand search warrants against Organised Crime Groups (OCGs), arresting hundreds of suspects and seizing cannabis plants worth hundreds of millions of pounds as part of Operation Mille.

Since the beginning of the year, NPAS has been engaged in a focused drive to identify and gather evidence of cannabis growing as forces nationwide crackdown on the activity which is commonly linked to much more serious violent and organised crime.

Clear and compelling evidence gathered on highly sophisticated thermal cameras by NPAS crews is often critical for forces in order to secure a magistrate's warrant to enter and search premises.

Chief Insp Sarah Towers, NPAS Head of Operations, said: “Our crews are perfectly placed to support forces in their drive to disrupt this criminal activity, which is often linked to serious and organised crime.

"Our thermal imaging equipment, plus the experience and local knowledge of our tactical flight officers, not only offers the opportunity to support forces in identifying suspicious activity but, critically, provides the quality evidence required to meet a court’s standard to secure a warrant and initiate criminal proceedings against those engaged in serious crime.”

All 43 police forces across England and Wales, working with Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) and partner agencies, dedicated resources to target the criminal networks involved in cannabis production and other serious criminality.

Cannabis factories also present a very real local threat.

The size of criminal cannabis ‘factories’ means that damage is often caused to the properties themselves; the buildings can become dangerous as a result of fire risks, unlawful abstraction of electricity, fumes and water damage.

Anyone with information about a potential cannabis factory or drug dealing can contact their local force online or via 101.

People can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or

There are some key signs to spot a property could be being used as a cannabis factory:

•    Frequent visitors to a property at unsocial hours throughout the day and night.
•    Blacked out windows or condensation on the windows, even when it is not cold outside.
•    Bright lights in rooms throughout the night.
•    Electricity meters being tampered with/altered and new cabling, sometimes leading to street lighting. High electricity bills could also be an indicator.
•    A powerful, distinctive, sweet, sickly aroma and noise from fans.
•    Lots of work or deliveries of equipment to an address, particularly those associated with growing plants indoors without soil such as heaters and lighting.
•    An excessive amount of plant pots, chemicals, fertilisers, and compost.