Landlords including ‘buy to let’ investors have been urged to help cops win their battle with drug dealers.
Falkirk Council hosted a presentation from Police Scotland alerting them to the danger of their properties being used by criminals to grow cannabis.
The Weed Them Out campaign targets drug users and suppliers who pose as tenants – then turn the house or flat they rent into a factory to mass produce the plants.
But the audience in the Town Hall was also warned the money-spinning trade has links with serious organised crime gangs based in Eastern Europe and South East Asia.
Across Forth Valley in 2013 officers recovered 400 plants with a street value of over £224,000. So far this year raids on rented accommodation has led to the confiscation of 183 plants with the potential to produce cannabis worth nearly £90,000.
Police Scotland and the Scottish Government have given the crackdown top priority - and turned to the property owners and their letting agents for help to win the fight and protect communities.
Detective Chief Inspector Laura McLuckie said the campaign has to be intelligence led and needs landlords and their agents to be aware of what could be happening and report any suspicions to them.
She said: “We are dealing with organised crime which harms communities. Our officers need as much information as possible before a report can be submitted to the procurator fiscal and a warrant secured to move inquires forward.”
Property owners were told what to look out for, how to raise the alert by going to their nearest police station or calling 101 or Crimestoppers.
Detective Constable Kevin Plank said: “One piece of information could be the piece that allows us to put the jigsaw together and close down operations that fund other sides of serious crime.”
Stuart Hunter of the Scottish Power Revenue Protection team which investigates electricity theft highlighted the risks to homes posed by the growers by-passing the supply to steal the power needed to cultivate cannabis plants.
He warned that illegal interference with equipment not only costs the industry around £440 million a year but puts lives at risk and increases the risk of fire.