Drug abuse fuelling criminality in Northern Ireland communities, says SDLP councillor
The abuse of prescription and illegal drugs is fuelling criminality in communities across Belfast, it has been claimed.
SDLP councillor Brian Heading was speaking after an armed robbery at a pharmacy on Saturday evening.
Cash and medication were stolen during the raid at premises in the Mount Eagles Square area of Dunmurry in west Belfast.
Mr Heading said: "The robbery of a community pharmacy in the Mount Eagles area is another example of the effect of a drugs epidemic in communities across this city.
"The abuse and illegal sale of drugs, and particularly prescription drugs, is fuelling criminality in many of our communities.
"Those involved in the illegal supply and sale of drugs in the city must be brought to justice. Their gangs must be disrupted and disbanded.
"The only way to do that is for local people to bring information to the police to help take these drug gangs down."
Detective Inspector Michael McDonnell said the male suspect entered the premises at around 6pm on Saturday and threatened members of staff with what is believed to have been a firearm. He fled with cash and medication.
DI McDonnell added: "The robber is described as medium build, wearing a flat cap, though possibly bald, and a grey or green hoodie. He was also carrying a green Asda bag for life. We would appeal to anyone who may have information to contact detectives at Musgrave Criminal Investigation Branch on 101, quoting reference number 1032 of 20/01/18."
Mr Heading said he wants to meet police to discuss his concerns. "I'll be asking what action is being taken to secure premises which hold prescription drug supplies in Belfast," he added.
"I would encourage anyone with information about this specific incident to come forward to police as soon as possible"
Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Daniel Baker said staff at the pharmacy were left shocked.
"These are people who provide a vital service for all in the community and I'm concerned that people doing a normal day's work were subjected to such a terrifying ordeal," he said.
Police are probing a possible link to an attempted robbery at a pharmacy in the Moss Road area of Lisburn on Saturday.
Detective Constable Perks said: "At approximately 4pm a male entered the premises and threatened a member of staff with what is believed to have been a firearm.
"When the staff member raised the alarm, the man fled on foot along Moss Road in the direction of Belsize Road.
"The man was about 6ft tall of heavy build and was wearing a green jacket, a dark-coloured hat and possibly sunglasses.
"Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives in Lisburn on 101, quoting reference number 845 of 20/01/18."