Warm weather brings increase in illegal growing operations
While the onset of warm, fine weather is good news for vegetable gardeners across the Bay of Plenty, unfortunately it also means an increase in illegal cannabis growing activity.
Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Pilbrow of the Bay of Plenty Organised Crime Squad says cannabis is still the most widely used drug in New Zealand, and as such, its growth, distribution and consumption causes considerable harm in communities.
"Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand and its harm can be conservatively estimated at $340 million every year.
"The impact of cannabis in Bay of Plenty communities is wide-reaching and beyond the individual user, and it often translates into other areas of crime such as burglary, stolen cars, serious violence and intimidation.
"This is why targeting organised criminals making a living from the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs is an ongoing focus for Bay of Plenty Police," says Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow.
He says in one recent Rotorua example, a group of four youths aged between 12 to 14 years were apprehended following a spate of vehicle break-ins just outside the CBD area.
"These kids had been stealing to pay for cannabis for their own use. This is a particularly sad example, because it illustrates that young kids are already using cannabis and in addition, are committing crimes in order to do so.
"Unfortunately, this is the tip of the ice-berg in relation to criminal offending that is connected to the drug trade."
Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow says Police obviously have an enforcement role to play in relation to drugs, but Police can't solve the problem alone. He is calling on all members of the community to play their part in addressing the issue.
"When all parts of the community work together, we can make a real difference."
Detective Senior Sergeant Pilbrow says cannabis plots could literally be growing anywhere, from a backyard in a suburban area, to the middle of the bush, or an indoor hydroponic operation.
He says there are a number of signs of suspicious growing activity that people should look out for:
• An unusual, distinctive smell
coming from a garden, bush or house
• Strange vehicles driving up and down in the neighbourhood or parked on the side of the road
• Vehicles in forest areas that are usually closed to the public
• Curtains that are kept closed
• Large numbers of people visiting a house or property at different times of the day and night
• Unusual lights in the bush or on farmland at night
• Missing items such as farm bikes or fencing equipment
He urges anyone who has concerns about criminal activity in their community to contact their local Police station directly, or to provide information anonymously via the Crimestoppers line, 0800 555 111.
"If you see something suspicious, please say something. We have a far greater chance of being able to make a difference if you tell us what you know."