‘11-year-old boy spotted being handed package in coffee shop’

By Mary Dennehy

THE Drug Unit at Tallaght Garda Station has been increased from three officers to seven in an attempt to strengthen the depleted squad in response to demands locally.

Over recent months, a number of staff transfers and promotions resulted in the unit being stripped back from seven to three and was, according to Superintendent Peter Duff, operating “below strength”.

Tallaght Garda Peter Duff 12102017

However, last Monday one sergeant and six officers, who were all appointed following an open interview process within the Tallaght and Rathfarnham district, started in the squad.

Superintendent Duff told The Echo: “Like any organisation we are affected by people transferring from departments or being promoted and this resulted in the drugs unit falling below strength.

“All of the officers in the unit were already working in the Tallaght and Rathfarnham areas, but we held an open interview process, with two of the successful candidates already possessing experience in the unit.”

He added: “In response to needs in the area, the unit is now back up to strength, the numbers are back to the normal level.

“Obviously I would like more in the unit but I have to take them from somewhere and I’m hoping that bringing the unit back up to seven will increase drug detections.”

Members of the community, who have been calling for a better resourced drug squad for some time, were informed of the strengthened unit by Tallaght Inspector Ray Blake at the West Tallaght Local Policing Meeting in the Fettercairn Community Centre on Tuesday, October 10.

During the meeting, members of the community also spoke of the need for a greater Garda presence in estates and for community police to reconnect with young people.

One local woman said: “Drugs are rampant in the area and recently a few of us spotted an 11-year-old being handed a package in the coffee shop of a local community centre.

“It’s a shocking situation and what if that package was dropped in the centre and a young child picked it up and put it in his or her mouth?

“During the boom, gardai were visibly seen in our communities, they connected with people and got to know the kids of the area . . we need to get this relationship back.”

Other issues raised included gardai “turning a blind eye” to open drug-dealing.

One resident said: “We see the gardai driving in and driving past people openly dealing in our communities.

“I can see drug-dealing going on when I drive past, why can’t the gardai?”

In response, Insp Blake said: “There has to be reasonable grounds to believe someone is in possession of drugs for us to search them.

“Just because someone lives in an area I cannot assume that they have drugs on them 24/7.

“We need reasonable grounds and a lot of our detections are intelligence-led.”

The community made a number of suggestions to Insp Blake – such as community police dropping into community centres for a coffee or chat on a regular basis and the return of police on mountain bikes – which the Inspector committed to follow-up with the team at Tallaght Garda Station.

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