FAMILIES and gardaí will meet next week to begin drawing up a plan to combat intimidation of communities by drug gangs.
Tackling the scourge of intimidation is a key new action in the National Drugs Strategy (NDS) 2009-2016, launched yesterday by Taoiseach Brian Cowen.
The NDS said the intimidation of families – often over debts of a family member to dealers – took the form of threats, property damage and physical violence. It was having “severe consequences” on both families and communities, who were terrified to talk to gardaí.
Sadie Grace of the Family Support Network welcomed the action and said they were in contact with gardaí.
“We’ve already started to discuss it. We have produced research on intimidation and given it to the gardaí.
“That’s been sent down to the community section of the gardaí and that’s who we’re going to be meeting with next week to see how we can make it safe for people to deal with intimidation,” Ms Grace said.
Other new actions in the strategy, which replaces the NDS 2001-2008, include:
* Targeting drug gangs using children to hide and carry drugs.
* Monitoring headshops, selling so-called ‘legal highs’.
* Drug intervention programme to divert drug users involved in crime into treatment and away from the courts.
* National Overdose Prevention Strategy to combat the rise in drug deaths.
The strategy also calls for random drug testing of motorists, although it says there is, as yet, no reliable system.
The NDS notes the success of gardaí and Customs in increasing drug seizures. But it said the fact that gangs know there is only one X-ray scanner at ports “facilitates avoidance of detection”.
Minister for Drugs John Curran accepted resources were going to be “scarce”, but said €270m was being spent on drugs this year. He said he was allocating €1.1m for much-needed treatment clinics in the midlands, east and south.
He announced he was extending the operation of the successful Dial To Stop Drugs campaign, which was due to cease this month.
Mr Curran also announced that singer Elton John had provided funding from his Aids Foundation for new needle exchanges through community pharmacies at 65 locations.
He accepted key actions in the previous strategy had not been implemented and were now repeated in the new NDS. These include actions on community policing fora, access to treatment, rehabilitation and drug prevention programmes.
Mr Curran said the newly created Office for the Minister for Drugs would be able to ensure greater implementation.
The NDS will be replaced by a Substance Misuse Strategy next year, which will incorporate alcohol.
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