DRUG dealers and users are bearing the brunt of a Garda crackdown on the narcotics trade.
Figures have revealed nearly 1,100 drug dealers were nabbed by officers in the third quarter of 2008 (ending September) and 4,200 have been apprehended in the past 12 months.
Drug users are also being hit, with more than 5,100 caught in the third quarter (Q3) and nearly 17,000 being arrested in the year ending September.
The figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) record a 25% rise in drug offences in Q3 (to 6,500) and a 24% rise in the past year (to 22,000).
Possession of drugs for personal use accounted for 77% of all drug offences over the past year, rising to 82% in Q3.
The figures also show massive rises in importation of drugs (up 39% in past year) and cultivation of drugs (up 61% in Q3).
The last year’s figures for all drug offences (22,000) and possession cases (17,000) compare with 13,000 and 10,000 respectively in 2005, reflecting the rise in drug use and Garda enforcement.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the rise in drug offences was “to a significant extent the result of continuing Garda activity”.
Fine Gael justice spokesman Charles Flanagan said: “The scourge of drugs is greater than ever, with 21,990 drug offences in the last 12 months — a rise of 4,189 or 23.5%. Drugs continue to flood into the country with offences for the importation and cultivation of drugs up by almost 40%.”
Garda success in the drugs area is thought to explain to some degree the sharp rise in robberies, with crime gangs stealing cash to pay off drug debts due to seizures.
The biggest increases were in cash-in-transit robberies, with a 29% rise over the year and a 500% jump in Q3.
The number of raids in Q3 (12) is the largest number of such heists in a quarter for three years.
Mr Ahern welcomed the halving in the number of homicides in both time periods.
“I believe the unceasing work by An Garda Síochána, focused on at-risk areas and individuals, has contributed significantly to this outcome.”
The figures record a fall in threats of murder and serious assaults in Q3, although there is a rise in murder threats over the year.
In relation to gun crime, there was a sharp fall in shootings in both time periods, but a sharp rise in the number of people caught in possession of firearms.
Theft and burglary offences remained largely unchanged in Q3, but still record significant increases over the year.
Mr Ahern said Garda enforcement had led to a fall in dangerous driving and drink driving, but said the sharp rise (up 148% last year) in driving under the influence of drugs was of concern.
The CSO data also record a significant drop in sexual offences in both time periods, with the exception of rape, which shows an increase, particularly in Q3.
Overall, there were rises in 10 of the 14 crime categories in the past year. But, in Q3, there were increases in only four categories.
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