Two men who admitted growing cannabis with a street value of more than £1million have been jailed.
Police were alerted to the duo’s operation after residents had reported a strong smell of cannabis somewhere around Hill Road, Dovercourt.
They also claimed there had been an increase in antisocial behaviour.
Harwich Town Centre Team officers, PC Steph Triscott and PC Neil Gibson, spoke to residents and businesses, and traced the smell to a house in the High Street.
They were given access to a nearby shop roof where they could see the house and signs of cannabis growing.
The officers went down to the house, and heard a back door being unlocked.
As the door opened, PC Triscott arrested the two men inside, Taulant Blloku and Florenc Prrenjasi, on suspicion of cultivating cannabis.
When they asked Prrenjasi what he was doing at the house, he replied: “Growing cannabis”.
A total of 500 cannabis plants were found, which could have been sold for an estimated £1.3million.
Blloku, 27, and Prrenjasi, 19, were charged with producing cannabis, following the discovery on 26 June, 2020.
Prrenjasi, of Woodbine Terrace, in Annfield Plain, County Durham, and Blloku, of Berkeley Avenue, Greenford, in Middlesex, admitted the offences at court last year.
Blloku was jailed for three years and two months, and Prrenjasi was jailed for two years and two months during a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court on Thursday (March 25).
Sergeant Aaron Heard, of Harwich’s Community Policing Team, said: “During police interview, both Prrenjasi and Blloku described how their families were in debt and they had taken on the job of growing cannabis for other people in order to earn money to pay off these debts.
“They were also fearful of the people who employed them and what would happen to them or their families if they didn’t continue.
“Sadly, this is the reality behind the drugs trade. Criminals exploit people who are vulnerable and employ them to grow or sell drugs on their behalf. Once drawn into this criminal world, they then find it difficult to get out because of fear of violence or what would happen to them if they tried to get out.
“It’s why Essex Police is working every single day to target criminals involved in drugs supply and working to protect those they abuse and exploit.
“If you have information about drug dealing in your community, or are worried someone you know is being exploited, tell us so we can take appropriate action.”