The Garda Commissioner has called for more education on the dangers of drugs amid an increase in heroin and cocaine usage in Cork.
Drew Harris said people using drugs give no consideration or thought to the violence and despair of the people, families, and communities that are damaged by the drug trade.
Speaking in Cork County Hall at the Joint Policing Committee, Mr Harris said gardaí will liaise with state departments involved in education and health to ensure that people are aware of the dangers of drugs for themselves and the wider community.
His call for more education on the issue comes after reports of Cork being in the grip of a serious heroin problem.
The latest Joint Policing Committee figures show cases of drug possession for sale and for personal use increased in Cork City this year with cases of possession for personal use rising from 578 in the first 10 months of 2018 to 728 in the same period this year.
Mr Harris said drug crime is a big issue.
“There have been three murders in as many weeks that we believe are linked to turf wars around drug gangs,” he said.
He said there is not enough of an “educational element” in fighting the issue and called for more information with regards to the dangers of drugs, particularly, cannabis and cocaine.
Mr Harris said cannabis grown here in Ireland can be far more potent and “has a detrimental effect on mental health”.
He said that cocaine is particularly dangerous, particularly due to the substances it is sometimes cut or mixed with.
“Individuals using drugs of choice are giving no thought to the violence and despair caused by the drug trade. That needs to change,” said Mr Harris.
He pledged that, from the new year, street dealing would be a particular focus for the force.
He said gardaí will be “in the face” of street dealers “making them fearful”, and that gardaí will be talking to other state bodies involved in health and education to ensure drug crime is being tackled from all possible angles.
Mr Harris was in Cork where he outlined the new Garda operating model which will see a shake-up in staff and methods. The new measures include plans to merge the North and West Cork divisions and build a purpose-built headquarters in Macroom to base it from.
While he said Macroom will be the HQ, Mr Harris moved to reassure people that local services will continue in other areas across Co Cork.
“We’re not retreating from rural policing. We have no plans to close stations. I can see no loss of services for people seeking them in other areas,” he said.
The plan also seeks to ensure more gardaí are made available for frontline roles.
Mr Harris revealed that 66 gardaí have been reassigned to the frontline from various administrative roles in Cork divisions already as a result of recent changes and that is something he is keen to see more of.
He said that, nationally, there are plans to recruit 1,265 people for grads staff positions, allowing 1,000 sworn-in gardaí to be reassigned to the frontline.
There are also plans to introduce inspectors on a 24/7 basis to all divisions as well as a divisional crime superintendent, additional inspector sergeants and community engagement teams.