Majority of drug users do not report attacks - report

Tuesday 16 February 2016 18.45
The report found that most of the attacks against drug users involved physical violence and damage to homes or property
The report found that most of the attacks against drug users involved physical violence and damage to homes or property

A new report has found that two thirds of drug users who are intimidated or attacked by criminal gangs involved in the drugs trade do not report the incidents to gardaí. 

The report, by the CityWide anti-drugs campaign, also found that most of the attacks involved physical violence and damage to homes and property. 

In one third of cases, mothers of drug users were targeted.

Almost half the respondents - 46% - said the intimidation involved physical violence and 32% reported damage to property or homes.

67% of those who experienced intimidation reported mental health problems as a result of that intimidation, 37% a physical injury and 30% reported other health problems.

70% report fearing for their personal safety in their own homes with 21% leaving home temporarily and 17% permanently.

Over two thirds said they feared for their safety in their local areas and, as a result, avoided certain areas and people resulting in social isolation.

This report on the violence and intimidation associated with criminal gangs and the drugs trade, is timely as two victims of gang-related crime are being laid to rest this week.

It shows that over two thirds of those surveyed who were threatened or intimidated by drug dealers and gangs, did not report the incidents to gardaí for fear of reprisal.

The main reason for the attacks identified in the report was a drug debt of between €500 and €5,000, but the research suggests in many cases the debt did not end even when it was paid off.

The report also showed a small but significant number of people said they were forced to sell drugs or hold drugs or weapons for criminal gangs.

'Intimidation is daily feature in some people's lives' - CityWide

A coordinator from the CityWide campaign said the most significant finding of a study into drug intimidation is that just 17% of those who suffer intimidation report to gardaí.

Anna Quigley said intimidation is a daily feature of some people’s lives.

She said, in particular, mothers are victims of this intimidation because they try to solve the problem.

She said that it is important that information is gathered in a systematic way.

Ms Quigley said the responsibility for this problem lies with gardaí and the justice system and they need to assist community programmes.

She said that there were particular concerns about young people because they fall into debt very quickly, they try to hide their drug use and they often fall into the drug trade to pay off debts.

CityWide has called for the incoming government to roll out local branches of the Criminal Assets Bureau to tackle middle-level dealers and to invest their ill-gotten gains to the communities they prey on.

Author of the report, criminologist Dr Johnny Connolly, said the research "represents a novel approach to gathering data on a hidden harm that is causing immense distress in many communities but that largely goes unreported and unrecorded officially".

"One clear outcome is that people do not wish to report drug-related crimes of intimidation to the authorities due to fear of reprisal from those involved in the drug trade.

"There is no simple solution to this problem but there is an onus on the criminal justice system and all relevant stakeholders engaged in public safety to address this crisis of confidence as a matter of urgency as it undermines the credibility of the entire criminal justice system," he said.

Commenting on the findings criminologist, Dr Connolly, said that there is an absence of a serious policy response and political analysis to the drugs trade.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, he said that there is a need to look at the way in which the drugs trade is impacting on communities, saying people are in debt and fearful.

Dr Connolly said that communities have no safety net and feel abandoned.

In connection with decriminalisation, he said Portugal's model and public health approach is excellent.

Dr Connolly said that €130m is being earned in the heroin trade in Ireland, with 3% of that seized by gardaí.