Drugs still widely available, gardaí concede

CUSTOMS and gardaí admit that record seizures of heroin and cocaine do not seem to be making much of an impact on the availability of drugs on the street.

The law enforcement agencies confiscated four times as much heroin and intercepted around the same amount of cocaine this year compared to last year.

A major EU report published last month concluded that drugs were now cheaper than ever before across the continent.

The research by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that drugs had actually dropped in price between 20% and 50% in the last five years despite ever greater drug seizures.

“We wouldn’t dispute that,” said Michael Colgan of Customs Drugs Law Enforcement. “It seems law enforcement can take out relatively large amounts of drugs and one would naturally expect there would be a shortage, or something like that, but it seems the vacuum we create seems to be filled very quickly.”

He added: “You may get a temporary blip, but it doesn’t seem to be having any long term impact. We’re talking to people close to the streets and we may, if we make a hit, create a slight vacuum, but that seems to level out very quickly.”

A senior garda source agreed and noted that despite ever increasing seizures of cocaine across Europe, the price had not changed.

“Cocaine seizures in Europe have increased 10% each year over the last number of years, but prices remain unchanged,” he said.

But he said this did not mean the work of Gardaí and Customs was not having an impact.

“If you don’t keep hitting the traffickers they make more money, they become more powerful and power is a dangerous thing.

“We are disrupting gangs each time we intercept their drugs,

“You can’t give up, even if it might appear we are having little effect on availability.”

At the launch of the EMCDDA annual report last month, the head of the European Commission’s anti-drug policy coordination unit Carel Edwards said the research showed seizures were not having an impact on price or supply, suggesting there was “a lot more drugs in the system” than was estimated.

Mr Edwards said a recent British study conducted by the Home Office estimated that 80% of drug supplies would have to be intercepted to seriously affect supply.

He said current EU estimates, which he stressed were rough estimates, suggested that around 20% of supplies were being caught.

The Health Research Board here published a report earlier this year using a common international estimate that only around 10% of drugs were intercepted.

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