Gang intimidation is “widespread” in many communities with children as young as 12 being sucked into criminality, said the drugs strategy minister.
Catherine Byrne said drugs were “killing an awful lot” of young people and cited one case in her own Dublin South Central constituency where four of five children in a family died from drugs.
She said she understood that people were fearful or reluctant to contact gardaí about local dealing and intimidation, but urged them to use a dedicated hotline.
Dial to Stop Drug Dealing is a confidential and anonymous service which has been operating since 1998. It is managed by Crimestoppers and operated by An Garda Síochána.
“People are sometimes reluctant to contact their local Garda station and people are reluctant to take part in anything like this or are in fear they might be identified,” said Ms Byrne, minister of state at the Department of Health.
But she said that Dial to Stop Drug Dealing was entirely confidential and could be trusted.
She said the smallest bit of information from local people could alert the gardaí to a bigger issue and inform gardaí as to who should be focused on.
“This is particularly around intimidation, which is hugely widespread around communities, where young people are being targeted on a daily basis to distribute drugs at all levels,” she said.
She said some of the children have no previous involvement in drugs or crime and can be as young as 12.
“Communities want this [helpline],” she said. “They want it to stop. They see how young people now are being sucked into being involved in criminality and antisocial behaviour.
“The big picture here is giving people an opportunity to make that call, having that number so visible in a community that people feel they can lift a phone and ring this number confidentially.”
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said pieces of information from the hotline added to other sources of information can lead to significant results.
Figures show there were 141 calls relating to drugs to the hotline in 2015.
It led to the seizures of crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and cannabis and the arrest and prosecution for supply of a number of people.
Several seizures of improvised firearms and ammunition were also made.
There have been 106 calls so far in 2016 from every region in the country, assisting in the seizure of cocaine, heroin and cannabis.
“Remember, all the people you read about today who are major drug dealers started off one time as small dealers,” said Mr O’Driscoll.
Dial to Stop Drug Dealing 1800 25 00 25
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