While the onset of the Bay of Plenty's traditional warm early summer weather is good news for the region's gardeners, unfortunately it also means an increase in the growth of illegal cannabis operations and Police are asking members of the public to be on the look out for suspicious activity in their areas.
The Bay of Plenty Police District Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Tim Anderson, says this is a time of year when organised criminals are very active in growing cannabis crops, which also leads to other crime such as burglaries, particularly in rural areas.
"Cannabis plots could literally be growing anywhere, from a backyard in a suburban area, to the middle of the forest, or an indoor hydroponic operation."
Detective Inspector Anderson says there are a number of signs of suspicious growing activity that people should look out for:
• An unusual, distinctive smell coming from a property or area of bush or forest
• Suspicious 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 all day and night
• Large numbers of people visiting a house or property at different times of the day and night
• Unusual lights in the bush or forest, or on farmland at night
• Missing items such as farm bikes or fencing equipment
"If you are concerned about suspicious activity happening in your neighbourhood, please say something. People can contact their local Police Station, or provide information anonymously via the independent Crimestoppers line, 0800 555 111."
Detective Inspector Anderson says cannabis is still the most widely used drug in New Zealand, and as such, its growth, distribution and consumption causes considerable harm to individuals and communities.
"Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand and the Drug Harm Index estimates its social cost to be $431 million every year.
"The impact of cannabis in Bay of Plenty communities is wide-reaching and beyond the individual user, often translating 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 us," says Detective Inspector Anderson.
He 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.
"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."