Young gardai use 'station bail' to sweep up dealers
THE country's main thoroughfare has been dramatically cleared of street drug dealers as part of a radical new approach by gardai.
Officers policing Dublin's O'Connell Street area have short circuited the courts' bail system by imposing their own 'station bail' on suspects.
The new system has cleared out the hundreds of dealers who followed the thousands of addicts travelling into the city centre every weekday to attend one or other of the 17 drug clinics located there by the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The problem with the dealers was worst in the north city centre in the garda's Store Street district, which has 14 of the clinics.
Hundreds of dealers were operating in streets and alleys off O'Connell Street for years and there was little gardai could do to stop them.
Despite gardai arresting large numbers of the dealers and taking them to court on a daily basis, almost all of the dealers returned to their patches on the streets after automatically receiving bail.
Frustrated gardai have told the Sunday Independent of how they took dealers they had arrested to the Central Criminal Courts building at Phoenix Park, only to find the same criminals returning to the city centre alongside them on the Luas.
Earlier this year gardai began imposing the legal system of 'station bail', where suspects are arrested and taken to the nearest garda station where they are searched for what money they have. This is then confiscated by way of bail.
The gardai also confiscate the dealers' mobile phones as these are 'evidence' of their drug dealing contacts.
The confiscation of the phones severely disrupts the dealers' activities.
And after more than 400 dealers were dealt with in this manner they have all now moved out of Dublin 1 and the areas around O'Connell Street.
Traders in the area have already reported improved trading conditions which they put down to the policy.
Richard Guiney of the Dublin Business Improvement District said that shoppers had begun to feel safer in the O'Connell Street area again.
He said they felt more comfortable stopping and window shopping now the dealers and their customers were largely gone.
Mr Guiney added that his association's members were "very happy", as people who stopped to look in shop windows were also more likely to come in and spend money and takings were up.
The arrests and station bailing system were implemented by young gardai who dress up as addicts and street dealers in hoodies and track suit bottoms.
A senior source said these young officers "are enthusiastic and very good at their jobs and they have been getting a great sense of fulfilment in seeing their work succeed".
The undercover guards also targeted the Liffey boardwalk which has almost become a no-go area for tourists and workers due to the numbers of addicts and dealers congregating there.
Anyone suspected of dealing or taking drugs there has been moved away and it has now returned to being a popular location for relaxing in good weather.
The undercover gardai have been targeting areas where they know dealing has been taking place to the point that the locations are now drug free.
Many dealers were trading in powerful pain killers used to supplement the Methadone, prescribed at the clinics, and heroin used by addicts.
One of the most popular of the prescription painkillers is the brand Zimovane, which dealers were openly selling at street corners calling out "Zimmos, Zimmos" as shoppers and visitors walked by.