Does one of your neighbours have frequent visitors, blacked out windows and large amounts of compost outside? If so they may be running a drug den.

Independent charity Crimestoppers has launched a campaign to raise awareness of residential properties being used by criminals to cultivate cannabis.

Working with specialist police forces, Crimestoppers aims to identify these properties, which are often secured through letting agents by serious organised crime gangs to grow marijuana.

Key signs that a property is being used to cultivate drugs:

• A powerful distinctive sweet, sickly aroma

• Frequent visitors throughout the day and night

• Blacked out windows

• Chinks of bright light throughout the night

• Birds gathering on the roof, particularly in cold weather

• In winter, snow melting unusually quickly on the roof

• High levels of condensation on windows

• Noise from fans

• Large amounts of rubbish, including compost bags

• Electricity meter being tampered with/altered and new cabling, sometimes leading to street lighting.

Signs for letting agents and landlords to look for with a tenant:

• Poor or no references from a previous letting agent

• Offering to pay several months in advance

• Preference to pay rent in cash without reasonable cause

• Wanting to keep the utility bills in a landlord’s name

• Asking for complete privacy, requesting no periodic inspections or preventing the inspection of the property even when given reasonable notice

• Changing locks to keep landlords and agents away from a property.

Phil Breckon, Eastern regional manager for Crimestoppers, said: “Residential premises being used to commercially cultivate cannabis carries many risks, such as increased fire hazards, through dangerously wired and diverted electricity supplies, which are often linked to water supplies and quite sophisticated feeding systems.

“Sadly many properties, often unwittingly rented to criminals for drug cultivation, can be left completely destroyed and uninhabitable, with damp and condensation problems, carpets ripped out and walls knocked down. We encourage the public to keep their eyes open and to report any suspicious signs to our charity 100 per cent anonymously.”

He added: “We value safe communities and in over 32 years we have always kept our promise of anonymity to everyone who contacts us. Call 0800 555 111 at any time or use our anonymous online form at We cannot trace calls or get IP addresses. Not even we will know your identity when you contact us to pass on vital information.”