Cannabis ‘scratch and sniff’ cards are to be delivered to households across Northamptonshire as part of a battle against drug factories in the county.
The scheme, which is being run by Crimestoppers, comes after Northamptonshire was ranked alongside Manchester, London and West and South Yorkshire as a hotspot area for cannabis factories by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
Across the county, more than 300 cannabis farms were shut down between 2010 and 2012.
This week Crimestoppers will begin distributing “scratch and sniff” cards in a bid educate and inform residents about the signs to spot and detect cannabis farms by recognising the specific smell of growing cannabis.
The cards contain an element that replicates the smell of cannabis in its growing state.
Over the last two years police forces across the country have seized more than one million cannabis plants, with an estimated value of more than £200 million. Since Crimestoppers began in 1988, the charity has helped to seize illegal drugs with a street value of more than £292 million.
Around half of all information that is passed to Crimestoppers every year is about drugs offences.
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.
“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 like human trafficking and gun crime.”
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, many are also not familiar with the established links between this crime and serious organised crime.
“Cannabis farms make everyone a victim. Is organised crime running a cannabis farm in your neighbourhood? Give us information anonymously on 0800 555 111 to help play your part in keeping our streets safe.”
The Association of Chief Police Officers lead for drugs, Andy Bliss, said: “Closing down cannabis farms and arresting the criminals who run and organise them is a key focus in drugs policing.
“This is because we recognise that these farms are often run by organised criminals but also because they bring crime and anti-social behaviour into local communities causing real harm and leaving people feeling unsafe.
“We also know that many people don’t realise that the empty, run down house or flat on their street with people coming and going late at night may actually be a commercial cannabis farm. It’s not just the stereotype of the remote rural set or disused industrial estate unit.
“The Crimestoppers campaign will help members of the public to recognise the signs and smell of a cannabis farm. The police will use the intelligence generated by the campaign to help build on recent successes in tackling this issue.”