Belfast Telegraph

Time to get tough on death dealers

Editor's Viewpoint

It is possible to buy nearly anything online, so it should not be a shock that drug dealers ply their evil trade over the internet. Yet there is something chilling about our report today which reveals that potentially lethal narcotics, including the ecstasy-type drug linked to the deaths of eight young people in the province, are readily available at the click of a mouse. In most people's imagination drug deals are done in back alleys or in crowded nightclubs, but obviously new technology has been harnessed to streamline the operation.

Our report is an indication of how pervasive drugs have become in modern society. There is a demand and plenty of people willing to meet that need. And those involved in dealing seem to have little fear of the consequences, either for themselves in being apprehended or for the misery they cause to others. With e-mail addresses and even mobile telephone numbers being supplied online, the brazen attitude of the dealers is staggering, even frightening.

The recent deaths have thrown a spotlight on the PSNI's record of catching those who peddle drugs.

With 2,800 people arrested for drugs offences and 4,400 seizures made in the last year, police can point to major successes but that has not been enough to deflect criticism. Health Minister Edwin Poots was the latest to weigh in saying police turn a blind eye to small-time dealers who supply them with information on more serious crimes, a claim hotly denied by the police.

The problem for the police is that there is common street-level knowledge of suspected dealers who seem to operate with impunity. Yet police are powerless to act unless they have hard evidence and good information from the public.

There are many demands on the PSNI's time, not least during the upcoming marching season and in combating dissident republicans, yet the suspicion remains that drugs could be given a higher priority.

If this spate of deaths had occurred in other UK cities the common feeling is that the response from police – and politicians – would have been sterner and more dealers would have been answering hard questions in police stations.

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