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Nearly 300 drug dealers have been caught in Galway in the past year

Galway Gardaí have caught nearly 300 drug dealers operating in the county over the past year – seizing amounts valued in the region of €2 million.

Members of the County Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting were told on Monday that a concerted crackdown on organised crime was paying dividends, but growing cocaine use persisted as an issue.

However, there were concerns raised that county towns continued to be plagued with widespread drug use, with one councillor claiming it was easier to order drugs than a pizza in Headford.

Figures provided to the JPC showed a surge in the numbers caught in 2023 in the possession of drugs for sale and supply – skyrocketing by 126% on the rate of detection in 2022.

Figures show that 106 arrests were made in the county area alone for possession for sale or supply, while simple possession for personal use also surged to 242 – a 102% increase on the previous year.

Chief Superintendent Gerry Roche said gardaí were hitting significant levels of drug activity across the county and were satisfied that they were making inroads, noting that they had hit “140 drugs dealers at least” in the county, “and nearly the same again in the city”.

“There is a significant amount of activity in the major towns of Tuam, Ballinasloe, Loughrea and out west.  We are also intercepting drugs in transit, moving through the county to the city,” said the Garda Chief.

Chief Data Analyst for the Galway Garda Division, Olivia Maher, said cocaine was the most common drug seized by gardaí, with just over €780,000 seized in the 12 months of 2023.

Almost €544,000 worth of cannabis was taken off the streets, while the total amount of drugs seized in the county area amounted to just under €1.4 million.

“The trend is very much that cocaine now represents over 50% of the overall street value of drugs being seized,” said Ms Maher.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) said the rise of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 or 100 times stronger than heroin and morphine, was a source of concern as the drug took hold in many US states.

“Have you come across it in Galway?,” he asked the Chief Superintendent.

“There is not detection here for fentanyl,” said Chief Supt Roche. “It hasn’t made its way into the country in any serious amounts,”

“We do have crack cocaine and these new so-called ‘designer drugs’. The issue with fentanyl and crack cocaine is that it takes six or eight times more of the drugs to maintain the addiction,” he continued.

Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said earlier intervention was needed and called for better education of primary school children around the dangers of drugs.

“A lot of the people taking cocaine now are actually teenagers. There is mention of the Planet Youth Model which is early intervention but it is not early enough, in my opinion. We need it in national schools.

“A lot of drugs are being sold to young people on Snapchat,” said Cllr Reddington.

Praising the gardaí for their continued work on tackling drugs, he said there was still much to do.

“In my area, you’d get drugs before you’d get a pizza,” he added.

Cllr Mary Hoade (FF) said the level of concern among parents was huge as she described their prevalence in Galway as “startling”.

“I don’t think there is a town in the county or any part of Ireland that doesn’t have a problem with drugs,” she said.

Chief Supt Roche said they continued to target the leaders of organised crime in Galway, noting that there were now 15 additional detectives in the crime bureau.

“That will help us in the investigation of serious crime,” he said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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