CRACK houses are operating like supermarkets as a surge in cocaine use sweeps across Limerick city, local politicians have told the Limerick Post.
Ballynanty-based Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan warned that Limerick is on a cocaine collision course and could see a return of serious gangland violence.
“Cocaine is rampant all over the place. In parts of the city they are mixing crack-cocaine in with heroin deliberately. There are some houses in the city that are like cocaine supermarkets, open 24/7, taxis pulling up outside.”
“I know of one house in an area of the city where 124 people were identified going in and out of the house on one day,” he added.
The comings and goings at the suspected crack house is recorded “all on CCTV cameras, but unfortunately, there has been very few prosecutions”.
High-level drug dealers are acting with impunity, the Sinn Fein TD claimed.
“While Gardaí have done good work, you still see people who never worked a day in their life driving around in top-of-the-range cars, enjoying holidays, no bother whatsoever, and they can still sign on the dole as well, so how do they add up to each other.”
“There seems to be open drug dealing in communities.”
Deputy Quinlivan, who has been a member of the Mid West Drugs and Alcohol Forum for the past decade, called for funding for education in schools and to support rehabilitation services.
“Drugs have never been so bad in the city,” he added.
“Heroin levels have dropped, but the level of cocaine is off the scale, and the deliberate mixing of crack cocaine into heroin is causing chaos.”
“You can see it in people – and if you don’t see it you are blind. The addicts are walking into shops and robbing stuff, they’re bringing stolen goods to houses and swapping them for drugs.”
Former Mayor and Fianna Fáil city councillor James Collins said his sources have revealed “truly shocking stories of drug addicts who are being intimidated by gangs in horrific ways”.
“What was really striking was that counsellors, Gardaí and volunteers all expressed little surprise that gangs are dismembering bodies or beating people to a pulp over drugs debts.”
Dealers are storing, mixing, and supplying cocaine and heroin out of homes in disadvantaged local authority housing estates including St Mary’s Park, Moyross, Ballinacurra Weston and Southill.
In recent days it has emerged that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris plans to deliver new Garda drug units into every Garda division as part of Operation Tara, the Garda’s latest targeting of drug gangs, to address an unprecedented rise in drug use.
Last October Limerick’s Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche told a meeting of the city’s Joint Policing Committee that drugs were “the biggest problem” facing society.
Barrister and non-party Limerick county councillor Emmet O’Brien said he was inundated with calls from constituents complaining that rural West Limerick was also awash with cocaine.
He argued that Garda resources should be pumped into raiding known drug dens rather than raiding public houses.
Drug gangs in the county are using drones as a counter-surveillance measure, according to newly elected Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue.
Chief Supt Roche said Gardaí were continually focussing on the operations of the drug gangs and that the number of detections, as well as the seizure of firearms, had increased.