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'It's a vicious cycle': Dublin's crack cocaine problem is showing no signs of slowing down

We returned to Liffey Street to speak to locals.

Image: Shutterstock/David Collado

DUBLIN’S NORTH INNER city remains in the grips of a crack cocaine epidemic with related crime remaining a huge problem for the businesses and the locals trying to go about their daily lives.

Earlier this year, The Journal visited an area of the north inner city at the corner of Liffey Street and North Lotts where we heard from people describing the violence, flagrant drug use and other anti-social behaviours they have to put up with.

Shortly after we published our piece, gardaí said they were increasing patrols and adding additional resources to ensure the safety of the public over the summer months.

Returning to Liffey Street this week, we discovered that things were back to where they were months ago; business owners are fed up, shop workers are still being threatened and assaulted and the drug waste is as prevalent as it was three months ago.

Muhammad Rashid has been working in the Liffey Street area for five years since moving here from Pakistan. He described how his regular working day is a mix of stress and then fear when drug users arrive into the convenience store.

They sometimes say to me, ‘I know when you finish, we will be here when you are done’, so that is not nice. There are days when you are worried about going home because you know they know your face and they are always out there.

A colleague of Muhammad’s, who did not want to give her name, said this has been an ongoing problem “for years”.

The woman said that she has to call the gardaí four or five times a week.

“There was a time back in the summer where things got better but we are back where we started now. It is frustrating and it is like you have two jobs.”

Crack cocaine use in Dublin has been a problem for over a decade. But in recent months, a larger supply of the drug has reached Ireland and it is being sold for cheaper than ever before.

The number of cases of people seeking treatment for problem crack cocaine use has risen by 400% in recent years, according to the latest national statistics published by the Health Research Board (HRB).

The nature of the drug means that users get a very quick high which dissipates quickly meaning that those addicted to the drug crave another deal very quickly, according to one garda we spoke to in relation to the street crime.

“You can see it a lot more clearly these days. Often you can see people begging at the lights when the cars are stopped at traffic. You can be sure there is a dealer nearby,” the garda said.

Those who are addicted to crack especially don’t stray far from the dealer as it’s a continuous process – they get enough for one deal, they do it and then they’re looking for more money for the next deal. It’s a vicious cycle.

The garda explained to The Journal how the effects of the drug on the user is making it more dangerous to police the streets. The euphoric effect of crack on the user can mean they are full of energy and can become violent before they eventually come down.

284784155_10225194058732428_4882280793516365809_n Drug litter near Abbey Cottages in the north inner city.

This is a problem for shop owners in the area as well who have to deal with the effects of people who are high on crack.

Local kebab shop owner Cengiz Guler has described how he is “sick” of dealing with antisocial behaviour caused by crack cocaine users.

He explained his frustration that things have gone back to the way they were shortly before the summer months.

He said: “They come in and start to throw things at the staff, throw things off the table, for no reason. They just do it because they are so high. They do not know where they are sometimes. I have called the garda so many times. My staff have been injured before.”

Crack is now being sold on the streets for as little as €10, meaning it is easier for more people to get a hold of. Previously, a larger crack rock would cost €50 and would have been one of the smallest deals available.

Several people spoke for a HSE report recently as part of an investigation into crack cocaine use in the Dublin suburb of Ballymun.

Various users described just what was going through their heads when they were doing the drug.

“I looked dreadful. I was in bits, I was really bad. Physically, I just didn’t give a fuck about myself at all. I didn’t give a fuck about anyone else. I didn’t care about anything or anyone. I just wanted my next bit of crack. (Interviewee 17, female).

“I’ve left myself with nothing in the fridge. I wouldn’t eat for days. I could go for weeks . Once I went for three weeks without eating, maybe four weeks.” 

Operation Citizen

Gardaí have been attempting to combat the flow of drugs into the city centre as well as the effects that rampant drug use is having on communities and businesses.

Multiple sources have told us of their frustration surrounding resourcing of the area. They described how they feel they are just “moving the problem to another area to let another station look after it”.

However, gardaí continue to operate Operation Citizen and Operation Boardwalk to combat the behaviour. The plan, gardaí have said, involves 100 gardaí patrolling the areas around the Liffey Boardwalk and the quays.

The guards are deployed on foot and and on mountain bike patrols – with 20 officers on the streets and supported by a further 12 mobile patrols across the four city centre garda stations.

282805034_10225194110013710_6312042235869996637_n A makeshift crack pipe in Dublin.

One key area is around the quays, with eight gardaí specifically tasked with patrols between the hours of 4pm and 4am.

Similar to the previous Operation Encounter which focused on weekend public order incidents, there are also additional gardaí on foot patrols in the city centre on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

For the period 1 July – 31 August, 2022, there were a total of 873 criminal incidents recorded under Operation Citizen on the Garda PULSE System.

These crimes are either under active investigation or currently before the Courts.

Drug outreach programmes continue to work with gardaí. Tony Duffin, CEO of the Ana Liffey Drug Project said:

“Ana Liffey works closely with Gardai on the ground through the ‘Law Engagement & Assisted Recovery’ Programme.

It consists of a frontline multidisciplinary team with members of Ana Liffey, An Garda Siochána and Dublin Regional Homeless Executive; providing intensive case management services to people entrenched in street life in the city centre.

“Through this, and our outreach work, we engage with people on the streets, to help them achieve their goals and reduce any antisocial behaviour they may currently be engaged with.”

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