Wednesday 16 January 2019

Intimidation of families for drug debt major issue

Louth Policing Committee

Olivia Ryan

There are families in Louth who are living 'in fear' and under the 'intimidation' of individuals operating in the drug trade, according to Garda Chief Supt. Christy Mangan.

The garda chief spoke at the recent Louth Joint Policing Committee forum, where  concerns about the impact of the illegal drugs trade were raised.

He explained that drugs intimidation was a particular problem in the Ardee district, adding that gardai had launched an enquiry in relation to a number of families who faced intimidation as a result of debts owed by family members. Charges had been brought in relation in assaults, he added.

The meeting heard that these 'debts' often arise after someone has agreed to sell or transport drugs.  But in the instances when they are lost to another dealer, or perhaps are seized by gardai, this person is then asked to pay compensation for the drugs. If they do not, pressure and intimidation is often applied directly to family and loved ones.

Chief Supt. Mangan added that families are often faced with the situation where they agree to pay a certain amount. But this will not be the end of the matter, as more  money is often later sought. He said that agreeing to pay was a 'no win situation' as it would not bring the intimidation and fear to an end.

He told the meeting that he had experience in dealing with these issues, having worked in the National Drugs Unit for ten years. He accepted that families may be living in fear, but said it was important for them to come and talk to the gardai about their situation,as there were options open to them.

'They may not be in a position to give evidence in court, but there are options available to them in the aim to charge and convict.' Working with the Criminal Assets Bureau was another possible solution.

'It is amazing what happens when a light is shone on particular people.'

The garda chief said that a lot of resources had gone into tackling the drugs trade in general across Louth. This was borne out in recent crime statistics for Louth. 

In the Ardee area alone, there was a 700% increase in detections of drugs being made available for sale or supply. The number of detections of drugs possession was up by 250%. Overall, the rate of searches in the district in relation to drugs offences was up by 120%.

Cllr Ruari O Mhurchu asked about the timeline for a drugs unit. Chief Supt. Mangan said that extra members were being appointed to both Dundalk and Drogheda.

The Argus