The National Police in Malaga have uncovered an increasingly common practice among drugs gangs in the city: allowing squatters to stay in properties in return for them looking after their marijuana crops.
As two detectives told SUR, this is particularly prevalent in poorer areas where the gangs can take advantage of individuals' financial situation to ensure that their plants are kept safe, are watered correctly and everything is in order for a successful crop. "They want their drugs to be controlled as much as possible, so it's a win-win situation," said one of the investigators.
In many cases these plantations, typically of up to 300 plants, are initially set up by professionals, but in others, the installations are more rudimentary and can lead to numerous problems, including fires.
Another problem is friction with neighbours. Disturbances occur primarily because of the smell, which in turn informs other gangs of the presence of a plantation and can lead to 'vuelcos' (thefts between gangs, often involving firearms).
These plantations are "particularly lucrative", said one officer, because they cut out shipping costs. "The penalties for these crimes almost never lead to prison," he added.