People under threat from drug dealers should tell us - Garda chief
A garda chief superintendent is urging families under threat from drug dealers in Drogheda to contact gardaí so they can help.
Chief Supt Christy Mangan said families do not have to make a formal complaint in order for officers to help them.
He was speaking as one local councillor claimed drug dealers had extorted €150,000 from families in the area this year.
Councillor Pio Smith made the claim a week after a man was kidnapped and tortured as part of an escalating drugs feud in the Co Louth town.
Mr Smith said some of the drug debts were just several hundred euro to begin with, but increased rapidly "to many thousands of euro".
In one case, a cannabis debt of €400 escalated to €7,500 in a short number of weeks.
In most cases the debt was owed by a teenage boy for cannabis and the pressure was put on his mother to pay up or else her son would face the consequences.
Chief Supt Mangan is encouraging families under threat to contact gardaí, saying they do not have to make a formal statement of complaint for gardaí to help them.
"I would not be able to confirm [the amount of €150,000] but certainly we have heard anecdotally of families being targeted for cash payments and some have actually made payments over to criminal groups involved in drug dealing. We need the people who have been targeted to talk to us so we can provide an effective and confidential means of dealing with these reports.
"We can do a huge amount. I am not saying that we need a statement of complaint but what I am saying is we need to meet with the families and try and address their concerns, but if I don't know what is going on I can't do it. So the first step is come talk to us, meet with us.
"When we are carrying out patrols once we know certain houses are being targeted, we can pay attention to them.
"If somebody wants to make a statement about being targeted and receiving threats I would be delighted to take a statement to that effect but if they are not in a position to provide it, we certainly will provide a service to them to try and give them practical steps as to how they can live safely," he added.
He said gardaí were "getting huge support from the people as regards what is going on" and, in relation to budgets for serious crime such as the Drogheda feud, "I have sought extra budgets and have been provided with them".
Meanwhile, Mr Smith, a former mayor of Drogheda, supports the establishment of a confidential telephone line that families with information can call instead of directly dealing with gardaí. The information would instead be given to gardaí by those answering the confidential line.
He said "the tension in the area is high".