By Eoin English and Liz Dunphy
Gardaí in Cork have recorded a 36% increase in arrests for drug supply and a 25% increase in arrests for drug possession this month compared to last month.
A total of six people were arrested for drugs offences last week alone in Cork and gardaí are now calling on the public to report to them whenever they see suspected drug use or drug dealing on the streets.
The news comes after €350,000 worth of heroin - one of the biggest drug busts in the city in recent years - was seized on Patrick Street on November 5.
A senior Garda spokesperson said: "We have a very active drugs unit in the city and recently we seized €350,000 worth of heroin which will hopefully dent the supply to the city centre.
"Last week we arrested six people in relation to different incidents of sale and supply of drugs.
"Eleven people were brought back to stations for the purpose of a search following either reports of drugs use or by Gardaí on patrol.
"Our figures are up on last month for possession (up 25%) and for supply (up 36%)."
The spokesperson said that despite public perceptions, the number of drug users in Cork has not increased hugely but users have moved into the city centre, making the problem more visible.
He said: "The number of drug users in the city has not had a sudden increase, rather the choice of location to use drugs has moved closer to the city centre where it is more in the public eye.
"There is a greater problem with drug use in general which is not solely an issue for An Garda Síochána – we work closely with all the relevant stakeholders such as the Council, HSE, Cork Drugs Task Force."
Despite recent fears that dwindling garda numbers had left Cork city more vulnerable to crime, he said that the city is safe.
"Cork city is a safe place. We have a unit of four Gardaí on mountain bike patrol most days," he said.
"We have regular foot patrols in the city centre every day who are there to prevent public order, drug use and theft from shops. These units also provide a high visibility deterrent to any would-be criminals.
"We are up in resources over the last five years. We have 24 more Gardaí than we did in 2014 which has allowed us to staff more specialist units such as the Protective Services Unit and the Armed Support Unit.
"Of course, every Garda division would welcome more Gardaí. The high profile visitors that we had to the country [including US President Donald Trump] has also resulted in the budgetary restrictions.
"This has had an impact on our ability to employ more Gardaí on overtime. In the run-up to Christmas we will hopefully be deploying additional Gardaí to police the city centre during this busy period."