Seizures of ecstasy jumped in 2013, while hauls of cannabis and cocaine fell significantly, official figures show.
The Garda Síochána annual report for 2013 shows that almost 430,000 ecstasy (MDMA) tablets were seized in 2013, with an estimated street value of €3.5m. This compares to around 165,000 tablets in 2012, worth €1.3m.
Last year’s haul was the biggest quantity of the drug confiscated since 2004.
It reflects a significant expansion in both the supply of purer MDMA from abroad — mainly Belgium and the Netherlands — and a resurgence in demand among users here.
This trend has been noticed both by police and health authorities in Ireland and in the EU.
It has been reflected in a rise in deaths linked to ecstasy, or in many cases to other stimulants similar to but even stronger than MDMA, such as PMA and PMMA. These other drugs come in tablet form, with emblems embossed on them and are typically sold as ecstasy to unsuspecting users.
“There’s no doubt that in the last two years we are seeing more ecstasy and the seizures reflect that,” said a garda source.
“It is something we are keeping a close eye on, particularly in light of the deaths.”
The figures show a sharp drop in cocaine seizures, with 52kg confiscated in 2013, compared to 424kg in 2012. Hauls of heroin remain largely unchanged at 62kg, but both years were up on 2011 (33kg).
Seizures of new synthetic drugs, many of them once sold in headshops, generally dropped, with a massive reduction in synthetic cannabis equivalents. The only new drug noticing an increase was PVP, a stimulant.
The total value of illegal drugs seized dropped from €115m in 2012 to €65m last year. It marks a return to 2011 levels (€65m), which was up on 2010 figures (€28m).
Figures show the drop last year is mainly due to a substantial reduction in the amount of cannabis seized: €45m worth in 2013, compared to €72m worth in 2012.
This in turn was primarily caused by a reduction (from a very high level) in the number of cannabis factories uncovered by gardaí. Almost 29,000 plants (worth €23m) were found in these growhouses in 2013, compared to over 55,000 plants (worth €44m) in 2012.
lIn a bid to highlight the dangers of PMA and PMMA, the Ana Liffey Drug Project has produced an animated video as part of its awareness campaign.
Air support unit successes
The Garda Air Support Unit flew more than 1,400 hours (370 at night) in 2013, attending more than 2,300 incidents.
During these, 140 suspects were detained, 16 missing persons found, and 47 vehicles recovered.
-February 2013: GASU help find a distressed woman intent on self-harm in south Dublin city. It used its thermal-imaging camera to locate a human heat source near a river.
-February 2013: GASU deploy covert flights to locate a storage unit for a mobile crime group targeting industrial commercial units. The Organised Crime Unit used the information to track and arrest four gang members. A large amount of stolen property was recovered.
-August 2013: GASU help locate four members of a burglary gang in Co Wicklow. Assisted by the public, it used binoculars and daylight and thermal imaging cameras to locate the men inside a large metal container, where they were apprehended.
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