Children are witnessing open-air drug dealing in a Limerick housing estate, with concerns growing that it is fast becoming the new centre of the city's drug trade.
Johnsgate Village, a small estate in the heart of the city, has seen a significant spike in drug dealing after successful Garda operations in St Mary’s Park forced criminals to move their operations.
One resident who lives close to the estate, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said gardaí are regularly called to deal with problems.
“They have big parties, even over Covid they didn’t stop. You can’t talk to them, they only mock you. They also bring in dirt bikes, it is too small for them. With the kids and dogs running around, someone will get hurt soon.”
Part of the problem is the estate is closed off from the rest of the city, meaning the problems are hidden from passersby, the resident said.
Recently, a video from the estate was shared widely on social media in which a man can be seen stabbing the tyres of a Garda van, before being arrested.
Local councillor John Costelloe says it is “a well-known fact” that the drug trade, which would have been prevalent in the St Mary’s Park area, has moved to Johnsgate.
“I’ve seen videos of open-air drug dealing going on, right in front of children. There are kids witnessing these things. Honestly, I am surprised that nobody has been killed down there,” Cllr Costelloe said.
“I’m anxious to see something done about the problems,” he added.
Cllr Costelloe says the estate, which is privately owned, wasn’t always like this.
“That was a pilot project 10 or 15 years ago and it was the best estate in the city. It was the place everyone wanted. Now it’s just been run into the ground.
Concerns about the area were raised at a joint policing committee meeting, with Cllr Costelloe telling Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche the estate is in a “dire situation.”
In response to this, Chief Supt Roche said the problem with successful operations, such as Operation Copóg, is that it causes “displacement” of the people involved in these crimes.
Operation Copóg, which begun in March of this year, was a response to the ongoing drug dealing issues in St Mary’s Park.
The operation saw tens of thousands of drugs seized in the area, and dozens of arrests for drugs and anti-social behaviour, including the arrests of two high-profile gang members.
“They move from one place to another, so we follow them on, from one place to the other, and we keep facing them,” he said.
“That's just the nature of this type of problem, but we will make it as hot as possible. We won’t flinch at any stage, no matter where they are,” Chief Supt Roche added.