PARTS of Limerick are in the grip of a “cocaine epidemic”, a meeting of the city and county’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) has heard.
Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche explained that the drugs business is the biggest problem facing the Limerick Garda Division with cocaine being supplied to the public at levels not seen before.
Seizure of drugs for sale or supply in the Limerick area is up 14 per cent so far this year, from 325 to 474, while detections of drugs for personal use has risen by 46 per cent from 107 to 122, according to the latest local crime statistics.
Detections for possession of firearms are up from nine to 14 while detections of possession of offensive weapons are up 7 per cent so far this year.
Fine Gael member Cllr Stephen Keary suggested that convicted drug dealers should be fitted with electronic tags, allowing Gardaí monitor their movements.
Cllr Richard O’Donoghue (Ind) said criminals are using drones to counteract Garda surveillance measure.
Cllr Emmet O’Brien (Ind), who is a practicing barrister, said there was a perception amongst the public that “there is a cocaine epidemic – an acute problem, specifically with cocaine”.
While it was all very important that Gardaí stopped motorists for road traffic offences, and raided pubs to enforce the liquor laws, he felt that resources could be better spent raiding the people who are known drug dealers and suppliers.
Labour Party TD Jan O’Sullivan agreed that Gardai should focus on senior players in the drug business.
“That’s really where they root of the problem is”.
She said her office received “regular reports of people who live in certain parts of the city, and we know they are selling drugs in a particular house. It’s really causing stress to people living nearby”.
Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan said Gardaí were well aware of complaints of houses in Limerick being used as drug shops.
“There are houses from where people have been selling drugs which have been reported to Gardaí on numerous, numerous occasions – reported by public representatives, reported by residents, reported by local residents committees, and those addresses would be well known in these areas,” he added.
“In one estate in the city there are taxis almost 24/7 outside a house dropping off people.”
And he said that the cocaine epidemic has stretched into rural Limerick.
Deputy Quinlivan, who serves on the Mid West Drugs and Alcohol Forum (MWRDAF), claimed, “we have never seen cocaine like this. We have never seen this amount of people who are taking cocaine”.
“The frustration that people have in the communities are that, the people who are profiting off of this are driving around in flashy cars, have flashy houses, their facebook pages are flooded with fancy clothes and fancy holidays.”
Fianna Fáil councillor and former Garda Kevin Sheehan urged Gardaí to follow the money trail to catch drug dealers.
“The people who had bicycles the other day are now in posh cars, far superior and more expensive cars than anybody in this room has. Where are they getting the resources for those cars as most of them don’t work?” Cllr Sheehan asked.
“How can they afford the lifestyle that they are enjoying? It’s because they are selling and dealing in drugs.”
“The trail is there. Look at the cars. Look at the jeeps they are driving. Look at the property they are purchasing.”
Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche said Gardaí were actively investigating the drug gangs, and targeting those involved at a senior level.
“I agree that there is a serious serious problem in this country, never mind this in this division, in relation to the use of drugs, and in my view, it’s the biggest issue that we face,” he declared.
“There’s lots of things that feed into it, crime feeds into it, serous assaults, intimidation in public, violence of all types feed into it.
“There has been an increase in personnel in the Divisional Drugs Unit, which has led to the increase in detections on last year. If more resources are put into the unit, detections will go up and up and up”, he explained.
“I’m wise enough and involved in enough drugs investigations to know that a lot of it is down to personal choice as well. People going out at night and taking drugs, is very much part of the night’s recreational scene.
“It is right up to people in their 50s and 60s using recreational drugs.”
“We focus in on people who are making money from drugs, who are out there leading by bad example to young people in their areas, who are driving big swanky cars, who are giving out bad messages to people that this is a way of life for certain people.”
“Our detections of possession of drugs for sale or supply has gone up from 107 to 122 and I would expect it will be even further up by the end of the year,” he predicted.