MORE than 1000 cannabis plants worth up to £1million were seized yesterday across Merseyside as part of a month long police operation to tackle organised crime gangs.

The crackdown is being led by the force's Matrix Serious Organised Crime (MSOC) unit and is taking place across St Helens, Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, and Knowsley.

Neighbourhood officers and the specialist cannabis dismantling team discover several cannabis farms every day in Merseyside.

The month of action aims to build on that and send a clear message to the organised crime groups behind the farms.

Superintendent David Charnock, from Matrix, who is leading the operation, said: “We are already having great successes in uncovering cannabis farms every day as more and more people become wise to the tell-tale signs that there is one in their community.

“The public have been a massive help in telling us what they know and in return we have vowed to act on that information and take action against the criminals who are profiting from these farms.

"Cannabis is not a harmless drug. It is hugely profitable to grow and sell it and we know that organised crime groups set up and control these factories, often in the very heart of local communities.

"The knock-on effects can be devastating for decent, law-abiding people who live there, as rival criminals fighting for control of these farms bring violence and intimidation to the streets.” During the first day of the operation, police executed Misuse of Drugs Act warrants across the county, seizing around 1000 plants and arresting 18 people.

In Sefton, a 500-plant farm was uncovered at a house in Coronation Road in Crosby and a 22-year-old man arrested.

A smaller cannabis factory containing several dozen plants was also dismantled in Seaforth and a 52-year-old man arrested. Bags of cannabis and white powder were also found.

In north Liverpool, ten people were arrested in total and 162 cannabis plants found in seven farms, including one in a loft and bedroom in a house in Stoneycroft.

A large container full of harvested cannabis was also discovered and the occupant arrested.

Further along Queens Drive, in West Derby, evidence of a recently cultivated cannabis farm was uncovered.

Hydroponic growing equipment was seized along with thousands of pounds of cash. A woman was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply and money laundering.

And on the edge of the city centre in Vauxhall, officers from MSOC's uniformed services wing searched an industrial unit on Naylor Street and found more than 200 plants being grown in a hidden cellar. A large number of car parts thought to belong to a stolen Mercedes car were also recovered.

Meanwhile, in south Liverpool officers from Admiral Street police station executed drugs warrants at properties in Wavertree, Toxteth and Allerton and discovered four cannabis farms.

In Briardale Road, L18 two separate houses were searched and officers found 178 plants in three bedrooms and the loft of one house and 47 plants in another.

A quantity of suspected Class A drugs were also found at the smaller farm and a 24-year-old man arrested, while at the larger one, tablets believed to be Ecstasy and a stun gun were seized.

Elsewhere in Tillotson Close, L8, three men were arrested after cannabis plants and powder believed to be heroin were found.

Drugs warrants were also being carried out in Knowsley, St Helens and Wirral yesterday and the forcewide activity will continue throughout the month.