The Larne public are to be handed ‘scratch and sniff’ cards so they can identify the smell of cannabis and alert the police to local drug farms.
The cards are to be distributed throughout borough as part of a new joint campaign by the PSNI and the independent charity Crimestoppers.
Once scratched, the cards emit the smell of cannabis in its growing state – although they do not contain any active element of the plant.
The campaign has been launched as new figures revealed there was a 44 per cent 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.
Cannabis cultivation has been detected in Larne on a number of ocassions, most recently in the Millbrook area last Wednesday.
Speaking at the local launch of the initiative, Sgt Colin Skinner of Larne Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “Our aim is to help people recognise the smell of cannabis and give them the confidence to report suspected cannabis cultivation in the borough.”
Chairman of the Larne PCSP, Cllr Michael Lynch added: “The Scratch and Sniff initiative is a different approach to combat drug dealers in our communities.
“The cards will help people identify criminal activity and advise them how to share information with police or the independent charity Crimestoppers.
“Cannabis is a drug that causes serious harm and many people are often exploited in furtherance of the cannabis trade.
“Cannabis is also often a gateway drug which leads people into other types of illegal drugs. I would ask people to support this campaign and Larne PCSP will be working with the police to raise awareness of the dangers these cannabis factories present.”
“Any information Crimestoppers receives is then submitted to a central point within the PSNI 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.”
Scratch and Sniff campaigns have previously been run in other parts of the UK by Crimestoppers in partnership with local police forces, but this is the first time the scheme has been organised in Northern Ireland.
Any information about suspected cannabis cultivation can be reported to police on the non-emergency number 101, or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.