Major spike in Cork drug offence detections since start of Covid-19 crisis 

Major spike in Cork drug offence detections since start of Covid-19 crisis 

Gardai believe high visibility and Covid-19 checkpoints are helping to lead to seizures of drugs meant for the market.

DETECTIONS for drug offences have increased dramatically in parts of Cork in recent weeks.

Provisional figures from gardaí indicate an increase of 39% in Cork West garda division for detections of drug dealing, while there has been an increase in Cork North of 25%. The increase in Cork city is lower, at 6%.

However, Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said the percentage increases are lower in Cork city because the division has a higher base to work from.

Figures are also up for possession of offensive weapons, according to gardaí, with a 6% increase in Cork city. In the first quarter of last year, there were 30 incidents in Cork city involving offensive weapons.

The drug dealing figures are comparing offences since January 1, on the same period last year.

In the first quarter of last year, there were 53 detections for drug dealing in Cork, 17 in Cork North and 16 in Cork West.

Gardai believe high visibility and Covid-19 checkpoints are helping to lead to seizures of drugs meant for the market.

Among recent drugs hauls in Cork were €125,000 worth of cocaine on April 11, in Fermoy; €79,000 of cannabis, cocaine and MDMA in Midleton on April 11; €70,000 worth of heroin in a car in Fermoy on March 31, and €12,000 of suspected cocaine in Cork city on March 23.

Meanwhile, a quantity of kratom was also seized by Revenue officials in Cork and Shannon on Tuesday, totalling €66,000.

A garda spokesman said that gardaí have experienced a high level of compliance with the public health guidelines at the many checkpoints and high visibility patrols it is conducting at tourist locations, natural beauty spots, and parks and beaches.

And he said: "There were 405 COVID-19 related incidents that started as potential breaches of the regulations, but during the incidents other offences were disclosed. As such, long-standing legislation for offences such as public order, assault, road traffic, and drugs was used instead. This included incidents involving house/street parties, gatherings beyond the family unit, and non-essential travel."

The figures are released as users of drug addiction services are being asked to take part in a Europe-wide survey on how Covid-19 has affected drug use and drug services.

Among the areas being addressed in the survey is determining how easy is access to drugs during the current crisis.

The survey is being conducted by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

According to the EMCDDA, the survey findings "will contribute to the emerging knowledge base on COVID-19 and Ireland’s response to it, potentially helping to protect the health of people who use drugs and improve drug services".

The agency added: "The drugs being examined as part of this study are heroin, other opioids, crack, benzodiazepines, MDMA, cannabis, LSD, amphetamines, synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants."

And the agency added: "We are still learning of the impact COVID-19 is having on people who use drugs and on the Irish drug market. We are aware of international and local concerns in relation to market changes and the impact this is having on the most vulnerable people such as those who use our services. Having access to the EMCDDA findings during the COVID-19 pandemic can help inform our early harm reduction responses to reduce identified harms."

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