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Police hunt drug dealers who set up cannabis farm in disused Methodist church

08 July 2022

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The former Robert Young Memorial Church in Crawcrook, Gateshead

The former Robert Young Memorial Church in Crawcrook, Gateshead

POLICE are hunting drug dealers who set up an extensive cannabis farm in a disused former Methodist church on Tyneside.

Following a tip, officers discovered 350 plants, worth an estimated £1000 each, with cultivation equipment, inside the former Robert Young Memorial Church in Crawcrook, Gateshead. The dealers had fitted a false floor and bypassed electric meters to set up lighting and heating equipment.

‘So sad to see an old building all overgrown with grass and weed’

Detectives launched an investigation as part of Operation Sentinel, Northumbria Police’s initiative to tackle serious and organised crime.

Inspector Alan Davison said: “As a force, we take this type of criminality very seriously. We know that members of the public have differing views on cannabis, but the reality is that a farm of this size will turn a significant profit, which will then be reinvested into further illicit activity such as trafficking, by organised criminals, who have little to no concern for the ripple effects their behaviour causes our communities.”

He continued: “No one wants this type of activity on their doorstep, as it presents a host of other issues; surprisingly, cannabis farmers do not make good neighbours. Anyone living near an operation like this can expect to see a rise in anti-social behaviour, theft, and even violence.

“Many cannabis farms, such as this one, also bypass their electricity — creating a dangerous fire hazard. No one wants to live near that, which is why we are committed to tackling this type of criminality.”

The church, which dates from the mid-19th century, was named in memory of Robert Young, a prominent Tyneside Methodist of the period. It became a community centre, but was declared redundant and closed in early 2019. It was sold to a developer the next year, but has remained unoccupied.

In December 1920, a bronze tablet and stained-glass windows were unveiled at the church to commemorate 16 members of the congregation and its Sunday school who were killed during the First World War. The font was erected by the Methodist Young People’s Fellowship, in memory of four church members who died while serving with the RAF during the Second World War.

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said on Tuesday that no arrests had yet been made, but that inquiries were continuing.

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