Belfast Telegraph

Police chief's plea for public to help in combating the dealers

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Police cannot win the war on drugs without the help of local communities, a senior PSNI officer has said.

Drugs have killed almost 1,000 people in Northern Ireland over the past 10 years.

Earlier this week Chief Constable Matt Baggott said there had been 100 drugs-related fatalities here in the past year.

Around 100 organised criminal gangs are currently peddling dangerous substances in Northern Ireland, including loyalist and republican paramilitaries and gangs from across Europe and further afield.

Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb yesterday said it was vital the community plays its part in taking drugs off the streets.

"I would love the general public to just realise the dangers and the threats that organised crime generally and drugs specifically poses to them," he said.

"It isn't something happening to somebody else, it's happening to you, your neighbours, your family and your friends.

"Drugs is one of those crimes we've seen that is very marked because people are dying from drugs, but we in law enforcement simply cannot fix it alone."

Last year nearly 1,400 people were charged with drugs offences – an increase of almost 16% on the year before. The number of ecstasy tablets seized fell from 30,000 to 6,000.

On Thursday Mr Baggott told the Policing Board trouble over the flag protests had hampered the force's ability to tackle drug-dealing. He said: "There is no doubt that at the beginning of this year the prolonged protests had an influence (on us keeping) drug dealers at bay and off the streets."

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