Scratch and sniff cards will help drug factory crackdown
Crimestoppers has launched a "scratch and sniff" campaign to tackle cannabis cultivation in the UK.
The independent crime-fighting charity and police forces will distribute cards that contain an element that replicates the smell of cannabis in its growing state to educate the public in detecting cannabis farms.
Crimestoppers director of operations, Roger Critchell, said: "We are distributing "scratch and sniff" cards because not many people know how to recognise the signs of cannabis cultivation happening in their neighbourhood."
Hotspot areas targeted in this campaign include Avon and Somerset, West and South Yorkshire, London and Greater Manchester.
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In Avon and Somerset more than 1,000 cannabis farms were identified by the Association of Chief Police Officers across 2010/2012 which is the fifth highest across the UK for this period.
Founder and chairman of Crimestoppers, Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC said: "Cannabis farms grow more than just drugs. Those who are cultivating cannabis tend to be involved in other areas of crime and are often involved in related gang crime and other violent crimes involving firearms."
The UK National Problem Profile report on Commercial Cannabis Cultivation produced in 2012 identified that commercial or industrial properties are being used less and there has been a significant move towards residential dwellings over multiple sites to grow cannabis plants.
This brings the issue of organised crime into our communities and there has already been an increase in property crime, violence and the use of firearms linked to cannabis farms.
The Association of Chief Police Officers lead for drugs, Andy Bliss, said: "We recognise that these farms are often run by organised criminals but also they bring crime and anti-social behaviour into local communities."
The public often suffer financially as well through increased energy costs. OFGEM reports that some estimate it costs the UK economy around £400 million a year due to energy theft.
Tampering with electricity and the excessive use of high intensity lights also leads to increased risk of fire in these residential properties endangering the lives of those living in the area.
Lord Ashcroft said: "These individuals use violence and intimidation to carry out these crimes and endanger the lives of those around them.
"We want to help put an end to this and the funding that cultivation provides to serious organised crimes."
Over the past two years police forces have seized more than one million cannabis plants, with an estimated value of more than £200 million.
Mr Critchell said: "Cannabis farms make everyone a victim. Give us information anonymously on 0800 555 111 to help play your part in keeping our streets safe."