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Police and Crimestoppers appeal for help to weed out cannabis factories

Issued: 31 Aug 2010

Police in the Northern Constabulary force area are urging local communities to be on the look out for properties that could be housing illegal cannabis cultivations and to report any suspicious activity to them through Crimestoppers.

Crimestoppers and the Force today launched its arm of a national campaign to raise awareness of the existence of cannabis cultivations and were joined by partners from the Scottish Crime Drug Enforcement Agency.

The national launch took place in Edinburgh this morning with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, Crimestoppers Scotland chairman John Malcolm and SCDEA Director General Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum.

Local people are being asked to use their natural senses to look out for the following signs, which may indicate the presence of cannabis cultivations:

* Blacked out windows, occasionally with condensation on them, or curtains or blinds are permanently closed;

* Premises appear unoccupied most of the time, but people often of South-East Asian appearance may be seen visiting late at night or into the early hours;

* Visitors to the premises may be seen bringing in building supplies and/or gardening equipment, which may be carried in boxes or suitcases;

* A low level hum or a loud buzzing sound caused by fans or extraction systems;

* A strong, sweet distinctive smell;

* Unusual levels of heat coming through walls and floors, which may be more noticeable in flats.

People may not notice all of these signs together, but are urged to report anything that appears out of the ordinary or suspicious.

The request comes as new figures show that Northern Constabulary detected seven cannabis cultivations and seized 4383 cannabis plants worth approximately £1,314,900 across the force area since the national crackdown on this serious organised crime was launched in 2006.

A two-week radio campaign is currently running on Moray Firth Radio and adverts will be appearing on buses from Monday 6 September for two weeks.

Cultivations have been detected by all eight forces across Scotland in both rural and urban settings and in a variety of properties, including flats, houses, farm buildings and industrial premises.

Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Greenlees from Northern Constabulary's Crime Services Unit said: "Cannabis cultivations represent a very serious threat to our communities, where cannabis remains to be the most widely misused controlled drug in Scotland.

"Those responsible for these highly dangerous cultivations are involved in serious organised crime and they are concerned only about maximising their profits. They don't care if your home goes up in smoke as a result of the huge fire risk that these cultivations represent, or the impact on communities as a result of drug misuse."

"Local communities have a crucial role in helping to beat these criminals by looking out for the signs. I would urge everyone to be extra vigilant and to report anything they think is suspicious."

He added: "These criminals are not just involved in cannabis cultivations they are involved in other areas of serious and organised crime, such as human trafficking and human exploitation.

"The cannabis is often just one part of a large organised crime operation. These factories produce a very strong strain of the drug which can cause serious psychological damage.

"There is a misconception that these factories are cottage industries, supplying personal amounts to individuals or friends. The reality is that this is the production of a dangerous drug on an industrial scale by organised criminals."

Chair of Crimestoppers regional board, Jim Ferguson, said: "Cannabis use causes significant mental and physical damage to people who use it and it often leads people down a destructive path of increased and more severe drug use.

"The purpose of the campaign is to again raise awareness of the potential existence of these illegal cultivations and the part our communities can play in ensuring those responsible are brought to justice."

He added: "Crimestoppers plays a vital role in the fight against crime and we have a long history of working with communities to make them safer and help solve crimes.

"The public should be assured that when they call Crimestoppers to report suspicious activity, their anonymity is guaranteed - in 22 years' of operating as an independent charity we've never broken that promise. We do not take your name, we do not trace your call and we do not tape calls ¿ all we need is what you know.

"Call Crimestoppers now on 0800 555 111 or give information anonymously online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org."

Also speaking at today's launch in Inverness was DI Alan Dron (correct) from the SCDEA, who said: "These illegal and highly dangerous cultivations are quite literally on people¿s doorsteps. These are not the kind of neighbours anyone wants or needs.

"They won¿t care about your quality or life, or if your home goes up in smoke because of the risks they take to make profit. We need people to be the eyes and ears of their communities, and hopefully by outlining some key signs, people will be able to help us identify where these operations are taking place.

"The commercial cultivation of cannabis represents a highly profitable business for serious organised crime groups, and is one which they believe is low risk. I want to change that perception and today send a message to those involved that we are improving our intelligence on a daily basis."

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
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