WEST Cork gardaí are waging war against drug-related assaults following a new wave of violence in the area.
Garda Sergeant James O’Donovan is putting the rise in drug deals and assaults down to people partying more in Ireland’s growing economy.
Sgt O’Donovan and other members of the force met with local vintners and off-license owners for a collaborative approach to curbing the activity.
The initiative formed part of Operation Soteria which aims to identify preventative measures to combat serious violence.
He said that of the 257 assaults reported in West Cork this year, 64 caused serious harm.
“We’re seeing an increase in assaults in a number of towns in West Cork since the improvement in Ireland’s economy,” Sgt O’Donovan said.
“Inevitably where there is riches to be had people have the inkling to go down other dark paths. What we’re seeing in the current boom is that the social scene has changed.
“The increase in assaults is a direct result of this. It’s different to what it was 20 years ago when alcohol was the number one social outlet for people.
“A number of people aren’t going out until 10pm or 11pm after drinking alcohol and consuming drugs.”
He said their main aim now is to keep the community safe.
“We have met with a number of vintners in West Cork who are very concerned about how the social scene has changed.
“Substance abuse is what we’re targetting from the point of view that it is one of the contributory factors leading to assaults.
“We’re working in tangent with the Vitner’s Association and the National Off-License Association so that we can collectively lower the number of assaults going into the years ahead.
“There isn’t a town in Ireland that hasn’t been affected by this. At the end of the day, we are a police force and our main aim is to keep the community safe.”
He thanked the vintners of West Cork for co-operating with him and urged anyone who suspects drugs misuse on their premises to contact gardaí.
“We’re appealing to vintners to alert the Gardaí if they suspect any substance abuse on their property.
“We can then put an intelligence-led investigation in motion and get the resources allocated into the areas that can eventually become hotspots for assaults.”
He warned that drug deals in pubs are becoming more common.
“As a result of economic growth people are now able to travel more which means that vintners might not always be familiar with the people who are on their premises.
“The fact that they’ve reported it doesn’t mean they are going to be culpable. If anything they are assisting us in the fight against drug abuse and drug dealing.”
Sgt O’Donovan emphasised that vintners have a responsibility to report crimes on their premises.
“The worst-case scenario would be if a fatal overdose occurred on the premises and it transpired that the bar owner had been aware of suspicious activity.
“If it transpired that the owner knew and didn’t do anything to combat it they could be liable to prosecution subject to the investigation.”
Sgt O’Donovan said the peak time for assaults is between 10pm on a Sunday night and 4am on a Sunday morning.
“We are here to reduce the number of assaults at a time when they are rising. This is a direct correlation to the substance abuse that is occurring now. We need to act collaboratively in order to combat this.”