Police seek public help to sniff out cannabis factories
More than two cannabis factories are being uncovered every week in Northern Ireland, a senior police commander has said.
They are generating millions of pounds for organised criminals and being used to fund even more criminality, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said.
He said: "They are illegal and they are dangerous."
From April this year to the end of August, police arrested more than 1,000 people for drugs offences and removed almost £4m of substances from the streets.
Over that same period officers uncovered 49 cannabis factories.
Police will be distributing information cards to the public so they can recognise the signs and smells of cannabis factories.
Mr Harris added: "We know that people may not realise that the empty, run-down house or flat on their street with people coming and going may actually be a cannabis factory.
"It's not just the stereotype of the remote rural dwelling or disused industrial unit." The aim of the 'scratch and sniff' cards is to raise public awareness so that more people report suspicious activity to police.
Officers across Northern Ireland will be distributing them to show people how to detect cannabis factories by recognising the smell of growing cannabis.
The cards contain an element that replicates the smell of cannabis in its growing state which is a different smell to when it is being smoked.
Justice Minister David Ford said the card was a novel approach to a growing problem.
"The new cards will enable members of the community to help tackle the drug problem in our society, by identifying criminal activity either near their own homes or in the areas where they work. The distinctive smell is a tell-tale sign which the public should report to the PSNI or to Crimestoppers."
Vice-chairman of the Policing Board, Stuart MacDonnell, said: "Tackling the harm caused by drugs is a regular focus of discussion at both Policing Board and Policing and Community Partnership (PCSP) level.
"Cannabis is a drug that causes serious harm and many people are often exploited in furtherance of the cannabis trade."
He added: "We urge the community to support this campaign and PCSPs will be working with the police to raise awareness of the dangers these cannabis factories present."
The signs of cannabis farming:
- Strong and sickly sweet smell
- Cannabis-growing equipment
- Constantly covered or blocked-off windows
- Visitors at unsociable hours
- Strong and constant lighting day and night
- High levels of heat and condensation
- Constant buzz of ventilation
- Lots of cables