Europe: British Police Using Thermal Imaging to Catch Marijuana Growers 3/31/06

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British police have begun using thermal imaging cameras in parts of London in an effort to detect indoor marijuana gardens. The hand-held devices detect and reveal the heat created by the powerful lighting systems used to grow weed indoors. Police reported patrolling residential streets in the capital's Haringey neighborhood looking for grow op heat signatures and seizing "a significant amount" of marijuana last week as a result.

Thermal imaging gained popularity in American drug war law enforcement circles in the early 1990s, but faded as an investigative tool after the US Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that a thermal imaging scan of a house constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment. Under that interpretation of US law, warrantless thermal image scans like those being done now in London are an unconstitutional violation of the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

London police were understandably enthused. "This latest technology has allowed us to quickly identify houses in Haringey which have been turned into cannabis factories," said Sgt. Alan Pyles of the St. Ann's station. "The equipment means we can covertly film a line of properties and identify the factory when the thermal image glows white-hot," he told the Press Association.

"We work hard to make Haringey one of the safest London boroughs and will use all means to help us achieve that goal," said Haringey borough commander Simon O'Brien. "This type of technology is the way forward for the Met and will ensure that we stay one step ahead of the criminals and drug dealers.

And if it works in Haringey, it will be expanded, said O'Brien. "The camera, supplied to the Met by Devon-based Frontline Products, is currently being piloted in Haringey and is due to be used for several future operations."

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Issue #429 -- 3/31/06

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Feature: Angel Raich Tries Again on Medical Marijuana, But Judges Sound Skeptical | Feature: Department of Education Backs Down in Face of Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit Seeking Drug Provision Data | Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle? | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Law Enforcement: Mississippi SWAT Team Injures Elderly Couple in Botched Methamphetamine Raid on Wrong Home | Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Recriminalize | Drug Testing: Virginia County Drug Tested Sewage at Drug Czar's Request | Pain and the Drug War: Sentence Cuts for Myrtle Beach Pain Doctors | Europe: British Police Using Thermal Imaging to Catch Marijuana Growers | Southwest Asia: Rep. Souder Berates Administration as Soft on Afghan Opium, Confuses It with Heroin, Demands Aerial Eradication | Iraq: Officials Complain of Rising Drug Use, Trafficking | Latin America: US Puts $75 Million Bounty on Colombia's FARC Leaders | Media Scan: Tony Papa on Rockefeller Reform for Alternet, Ryan Grim Knocks Post on Meth Story for the City Paper | Weekly: This Week in History | Paid Internship: Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform/Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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