A £900,000 cannabis farm spread across three disused shops was dismantled when police carried out a dawn raid on the premises.

Hartlepool has been blighted by illegal cannabis farms being set up across the town in recent years and the latest find was one of the most substantial to date.

Cleveland Police targeted the buildings on Raby Road last week as part of a week-long initiative from neighbourhood policing teams clamping down on suspected criminals causing misery in their communities.

The huge cannabis farm was well established inside the empty buildings and despite clear evidence of people staying on the premises they were empty when officers forced their way into the former shops.

Cannabis plants were growing in rooms throughout the building and officers dismantled the specialist equipment that had been fitted to cultivate the drug.

The Northern Echo: Officers searching for evidence at cannabis farm in Hartlepool.Officers searching for evidence at cannabis farm in Hartlepool. (Image: Graeme Hetherington, Newsquest)

And the offices were joined on the operation by the Police and Crime Commissioner of Cleveland Steve Turner so he could see first hand the impact cannabis farms are having on the town.

Read more: Scourge of off-road bikers tackled in innovative operation

He said: “These farms are horrendous, they cause so much damage, they are prelude to serious violence and the organised crime gangs that run them are really harming our communities.

“It can’t be tolerated but it can be stopped, this sends out a fantastic message that we won’t tolerate this in Cleveland, so where ever we find these or the public tell us about farms, we will come in, close them down and arrest those running them.”

And following the raid on the buildings, eagle-eyed officers spotted a van in the area that was connected to an organised crime gang believed to be responsible for setting up the illegal cannabis farms across the town.

The Northern Echo: Inside the cannabis farm on Raby Road, Hartlepool.Inside the cannabis farm on Raby Road, Hartlepool. (Image: Graeme Hetherington, Newsquest)

Superintendent Martin Hopps, the district commander for Hartlepool, said: “We have executed a number of warrants in relation to organised crime and we have found numerous cannabis growths that are worth in excess of £900,000.”

The Northern Echo: A suspect being arrested by Cleveland PoliceA suspect being arrested by Cleveland Police (Image: Graeme Hetherington, Newsquest)

In December, the force raided a number of addresses in the town as they attempt to disrupt the supply of the Class B drug.

Inside one of the properties they discovered a suspected Albanian illegal immigrant who was hidden behind a secret door on the ground floor of the terraces house.

Officers discovered that the electric meters in the properties had been bypassed and the gangs had taken effort to try and block windows to prevent prying eyes capturing what they were up to.

Read more: Drugs, cash and weapons seized during week-long crackdown on organised crime

Teesside Crown Court heard how one farm inside the derelict Corner House pub was connected to the ‘Albanian Mafia’.

When police raided the building in October, they discovered 816 cannabis plants worth £685,000 growing inside.

Two Albanian men, who were illegal immigrants, were looking after the plants in the boarded-up building on Avenue Road near the Hartlepool United ground and a probation office. One of them said that the drugs were linked to the Albanian Mafia and that they would kill him.