Written Answers. - Crime Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan


50 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his plans for a serious crackdown on drug dealing given the ever increasing evidence of the greater availability of hard drugs throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17166/03]

It is vital that policy in relation to tackling the drugs problem in Ireland is based on solid evidence in relation to the scale and nature of the problem.

The national advisory committee on drugs, NACD, was established to provide analysis of research findings and information commissioned or available to it and to advise the Government in relation to a number of areas, including the prevalence of drug use. In this regard the NACD recently published a study on the prevalence of opiate use in Ireland. It is worth noting that this first formal estimate of opiate use since a 1996 study noted a decrease in the reported figure for opiate users in Dublin from 13,461 in 1996 to 12,456 in 2001. This being said, the Garda Síochána annual policing plans set the enforcement of the legislation in relation to drugs as one of the primary objectives of the organisation.

The issue of drug distribution is addressed by the Garda in a number of ways: preventing the supply of drugs into the country through proactive investigation and targeting of distribution networks in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies; the gathering and analysis of both strategic and operational intelligence on national and international drug distribution networks; undermining the structures and systems which support organised criminal networks through the concerted efforts of national units, including the Garda national drugs unit, national bureau of criminal investigation, the Garda bureau of fraud investigation, the Criminal Assets Bureau as well as divisional and district units.
These activities have resulted in considerable successes against criminal networks resulting in substantial quantities of drugs seized. In addition to these activities, the Garda Síochána conducts a number of special initiatives, namely, Cleanstreet and Nightcap, which are specifically aimed at targeting drug distribution at local level.
The Criminal Assets Bureau also focuses on local drug dealers who profit from criminal activity as a result of requests from local communities. The bureau has also established a local drug dealer initiative in conjunction with the national drugs unit to identify and to target local dealers. A Garda working group is examining the current system to ensure it is meeting the priority in the Government programme to target "the activities of middle-ranking dealers".
A number of initiatives to enhance international co-operation to tackle drug trafficking have also been taken. Garda liaison officers have been assigned to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain and France, and to the international police support agencies, Interpol and Europol. Bilateral agreements continue to be developed with other jurisdictions to increase international co-operation in tackling drug trafficking and other serious crime.
The force is actively involved in demand reduction initiatives through the Garda schools programme and delivers lectures on drug issues to a variety of agencies and groups.
The Garda Síochána is an active participant on the Government's national drug strategy through its representation on the national drug strategy team and both regional and local drug task forces.