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Norfolk police get new weapon in drugs fight

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 October 2011 | UPDATED: 12:37 17 October 2011

Inspector Carol Congreve, PCSO Craig Bidwell and UK Power Networks Norwich area manager Les Waters. Picture submitted.

Inspector Carol Congreve, PCSO Craig Bidwell and UK Power Networks Norwich area manager Les Waters. Picture submitted.

Police have been handed a new weapon in the war on drugs in the city and beyond, which will help officers detect potential cannabis farms.

Energy firm UK Power Networks has teamed up with Norfolk Police to loan officers a hand-held thermal imaging camera, worth £5,000, which will assist in the detection of heat emissions from a property.

An unusually high degree of heat can indicate unlawful activity inside a property, including illegal connections to the electricity network to power equipment used to grow cannabis.

David Shepherd, UK Power Networks head of security, said: “We took the decision to offer this equipment to Norfolk Constabulary as one part of our ongoing effort to combat illegal connections to our electricity network. Not only does this involve the theft of electricity, but illegal connections do not meet the required safety standards and are a hazard, both to those using them and our staff when they come across them.”

The camera can be operated by police officers after just a few minutes of training. Its function is primarily as a comparison tool to see how much heat is coming from a property compared to neighbouring premises.

Gary Corbett, technical support manager at Norfolk Constabulary, said: “We are very keen to work in partnership with the energy companies in these cases because not only are offenders who by-pass the system defrauding supply companies, but they are putting themselves and others in electrical danger and at increased risk from a fire. It is particularly useful in tracking down cannabis farms and drug-related offences are a root cause of a lot of other crime.”

The camera has been used on a number of occasions in Norfolk to gather intelligence connected to several investigations. In some cases, arrests have been made.

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