Tuesday 21 November 2017

Gang 'heavies' behind violence at Park festival

Drug dealer's bodyguards wired on crystal meth

HIGHLY ADDICTIVE: Methamphetamine, or 'crystal meth'
HIGHLY ADDICTIVE: Methamphetamine, or 'crystal meth'
Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

DRUG dealers' 'heavies' who were present in large numbers at the Phoenix Park music festival were responsible for much of the violence and, gardai believe, some were using the dangerously intoxicating drug, methamphetamine, better known as 'crystal meth'.

Gardai say that most of the drug gangs in Dublin targeted the Phoenix Park festival months before it took place, visiting the Park and working out the best locations to sell drugs, mainly ecstasy, the preferred drug of the dance fans attracted to the event. They were aware that their rival dealers were also going to be present so all sides came with support from bodyguards.

This group, gardai say, were the main cause of violence which led to more than 40 people needing hospital treatment for injuries. They believe many would have been paid with drugs rather than cash for their work.

Among those who were acting in the role of 'heavies' for the drug dealers were men known to be using crystal meth, a drug which is closely associated with violent and highly erratic behaviour. The drug has begun reaching Dublin in significant quantities in the past two or three years.

In the US, where it is commonly available, it is associated with acts of extraordinary violence. There have been repeated instances of people who use meth shooting dead associates and family members. In January, a woman from Fresno, California, who had been smoking meth, shot her two children, her cousin and then herself. Police frequently have to shoot meth users who are armed and too dangerous to otherwise bring under control.

The drug is a cheaper and far stronger stimulant than cocaine and became widespread in the poor areas of the US in the Nineties. Some gardai are concerned that with the recession here, the market for cocaine is drying up and is being replaced by a growing demand for the cheaper and far more addictive drug.

Seizures of the drug are relatively rare, but last year Customs seized 2.5kgs of the meth with an estimated street value of €250,000 in Dublin Airport. Seizures had previously been made in Tralee, Co Kerry and Birr, Co Offaly.

The drug produces a powerful rush and its effect can last for up to 12 hours or wear off after a short period in cases of frequent users. It lowers inhibitions and increases sex drive. Witnesses to events in and around the music festival in Phoenix Park spoke of scenes of open sexual behaviour including people naked and having sex inside the Park and, in one instance, a couple having sex in full view of people on Blackhorse Avenue.

Among the gangs here that have been importing the drug are a number controlled by young men in Tallaght where there has been an upsurge in violence and gun fighting in the past two years. Gardai say a large part of this is associated with meth use. In some instances, gardai say, the violence and use of weapons is happening in ways where those responsible appear to have no fears or concerns about being identified -- a characteristic of the recklessness induced by using meth.

The Phoenix Park event was, gardai say, the first time that the public has witnessed the extraordinarily dangerous side of the drug, but say that there were also many instances of violence and robbery from non-users. While 40 people needed emergency treatment, there were large numbers of other people who suffered common assaults and did not require hospital treatment. Sixteen suffered broken joints and lacerations. At least seven people were robbed of their tickets at knifepoint and many others were mugged and had mobile phones or money stolen.

Gardai say there were only 10 undercover officers from local district drug units on duty and they were overwhelmed, arresting 33 people for drug or violence-related incidents. The Garda Press Office said that 145 gardai were on duty at the event which attracted 40,000 people. The promoters, MCD, doubled the number of security guards required under licencing laws for such an event.

Two young men, Lee Scanlon, 20, from Clonsilla, Dublin and Shane Brophy, 21, from Co Laois died from drug overdoses.

Experienced gardai in Dublin say the Garda response was seriously inadequate. One said last week that there should have been a much greater undercover presence as drug unit officers in the city had reported that the event was being targeted in a substantial way by drug dealers and their associates.

Sources said that there should have been large contingents of plain-clothes officers who could have targeted and arrested the main suspected dealers outside the concert. They said there should also have been metal detectors to use on people whom they suspected of being armed and that drugs sniffer dogs should have been deployed to be used to catch people carrying drugs.

Sunday Independent

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