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26 June 2014, 05:00
Scratch and sniff cards which smell of cannabis are being handed out by Durham Police, in a bid to recruit the public in the hunt for illegal drug farms.
Police hope people who become familiar with the scent of the Class B drug will be more likely to tell officers when they come across someone growing it.
The Home Office says over the last two years police forces have seized more than one million cannabis plants, worth an estimated £200m.
There is a fear that many of those who grow the drug are involved in organised crime, so capturing those behind it will help tackle more serious offending.
Areas where the scratch and sniff cards have been trialled have seen an increase in the number of cannabis farms being reported.
Now the scheme is being rolled out across 17 force areas, including Durham, in the hope that more of those responsible will be caught.
National Police Lead for Cannabis Chief Superintendent Bill Jephson said:
"Those who commercially cultivate cannabis are serious and organised criminals often involved in other criminal ventures.
Houses in residential areas are used to produce the cannabis, which brings violent offenders into the heart of our communities and leads to a real risk of fire and flood.
Ordinary people who come forward and share their concerns will be our best source of information.
The campaign explains the tell-tale signs that a cannabis farm exists and how people can ensure the information they have gets to the police in confidence.
I would urge everyone to act as our eyes and ears or, in this case, our noses to sniff out the criminals."
According to figures from the UK Human Trafficking Centre, around a fifth of human trafficking victims thought to have been criminally exploited in 2012 were forced to work on a cannabis farm.
Last summer, energy watchdog OFGEM said that a third of the electricity lost to energy theft went on cannabis farms.
As well as providing scratch cards, the campaign highlights how to tell if a house or flat is being used as a cannabis farm, including constantly covered windows and strong lighting always being on.