Crimestoppers and Police Service Northern Ireland launch Scratch and Sniff initiative

25 September 2014 

Crimestoppers and The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have today launched ‘scratch and sniff’, an initiative to help people spot the tell-tale signs of cannabis factories.

As demonstrated with the Charity's campaign earlier in the year, the objective is to raise public awareness so that more people pass on information about suspicious activity anonymously to Crimestoppers or directly to the police. The campaign is being launched as new figures reveal there was a 44% increase in cannabis factories across Northern Ireland in 2013/14.

A total of 130 cannabis factories were uncovered in the year April 2013-March 2014. The previous year (April 2012-March 2013), a total of 90 factories were uncovered. In the first five months of this reporting year (April-August 2014), a total of 49 factories have been uncovered.

Police officers across Northern Ireland will be distributing ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to the public to educate and inform them about the signs to spot and detect cannabis factories by recognising the specific 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.

Learn to spot the signs of cannabis cultivation

Crimestoppers and PSNI launch 'scratch and sniff' campaign

Crimestoppers and The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have today launched ‘scratch and sniff’, an initiative to help people spot the tell-tale signs of cannabis factories. The campaign is being launched as new figures reveal there was a 44% increase in cannabis factories across Northern Ireland in 2013/14.

 

Speaking about the initiative, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said: “More than two cannabis factories are being uncovered every week in Northern Ireland. They are illegal and they are dangerous. The money generated by them runs into millions of pounds. That’s money going into the pockets of organised criminals - used to fund even more criminal activity. From 1 April 2014 until 31 August 2014, police have arrested over 1,110 people for drugs offences and removed an estimated £3.9million of drugs from our streets. In that same time period we have also uncovered 49 cannabis factories across Northern Ireland.

“Over the coming weeks officers across Northern Ireland will be distributing ‘scratch and sniff’ cards to the public so that they will be able to recognise the signs and smells of cannabis factories in their local communities. 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.”

Justice Minister David Ford said: “The Scratch and Sniff initiative is a novel approach to a growing problem in our society. 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.

“This initiative is a very innovative example of law enforcement agencies, the voluntary sector and the public coming together to help keep Northern Ireland society safe. I have been impressed with this project and hope it will prove to be a successful additional tool to the police in their efforts to thwart Cannabis growing in Northern Ireland.”

Urging community support for the campaign, Vice Chair 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. 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.”

Val Smith, Vice Chair of Crimestoppers Board Northern Ireland, emphasised the important role which the charity plays in crime detection: “It is really important for people to understand what happens when they ring Crimestoppers. There is no caller ID, so the person taking the call can’t see the phone number that the call is being made from. This means that the caller remains totally anonymous. Similarly, the Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 number does not appear on your telephone bill, a further measure that helps to ensure complete anonymity.

“The caller isn’t asked for their name or any personal information; they are simply given an opportunity to share information that they may have about an incident or suspicious behaviour. Any information Crimestoppers receives is then submitted to a central point within the Police Service of Northern Ireland and forwarded to the relevant policing area. This information can result in searches being conducted which lead to drugs being seized or cannabis farms being closed down.”

We would urge the general public if they see or smell anything suspicious within their local area to contact police on the non-emergency number 101 or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously by telephoning 0800 555 111 or through the Anonymous Online Form.

-ENDS-