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'Staff are being attacked every day': Surge in crime on city street linked to crack-cocaine use

There’s been an increase in violent incidents in the Liffey St/North Lotts area in recent weeks.

Image: Shutterstock

BUSINESS OWNERS AND publicans along a busy city centre street in Dublin have spoken of staff being attacked, threatened and intimidated due to a surge in drug use and drug-related violence in the area. 

The influx in drug use and dealing of crack-cocaine around the Liffey Street/North Lotts areas on the northside of the city has resulted in a drop in footfall from tourists and other customers, the business owners said. 

The Journal visited the junction this week on foot of indications that drug use in the area had been causing problems in recent weeks for local businesses and residents. 

And while drug use and related violence have long been an issue in the area, the business owners we spoke to said they were now at the end of their tether; many described being threatened on a daily basis and having to call gardaí multiple times a week. 

Previously, most drug users in the area were buying and using heroin as well as various other tablets. But, in more recent years, the prevalence of crack emerged. 

Cross the Ha’penny Bridge from south to north and you’ll find yourself on Liffey Street. Two hundred metres down the road and you arrive at the intersection with North Lotts – a cobbled laneway area that runs parallel to the quays and Middle Abbey Street.

Whilst talking to a pub owner at the now notorious corner, TheJournal witnessed a gathering of crack users, most of them well-known to the publican. 

“They arrive down here around the same time every day and they deal and they use. They stay close to the dealer. This is the worst I have seen it in 15 years.

“It has become bad in the last six months, almost when the Covid restrictions were lifted.

“There was one occasion recently that I went out to tell someone to stop begging to my customers as it was making them uncomfortable and the drug user started shouting.

“The customers left and the guy took the glass that was on the table and threw it at me. This is what you’re dealing with on a daily basis.”

He added: “You’ll see them hugging each other and that’s how you know a deal has been done – it’s almost done like we don’t know what they’re doing but it’s obvious when you look out for it.”

While the publican explained the modus operandi of the crack dealers and the users, we observed one man arrive and bring the group of people down to the back of the laneway, where bins and empty beer kegs are stored. 

This is where the dealing takes place. Users and dealers are able to scatter in several directions if gardaí arrive, the publican explained. 

Image from iOS (1) The local Spar shop which has been experiencing significant anti-social behaviour. Source: The Journal

Local kebab shop owner Cengiz Guler explained how one of his staff received serious injuries to his hand this week following an altercation with drug users in the area.

Guler said: “This is happening all of the time. It is crazy. I am looking at 15 of them right now. 

“Yesterday, they came into the shop and broke glass salt shakers and started throwing them at my staff. One of my staff received injuries to his hands and he needed stitches. We are going to the Garda station now to make a statement.” 

Guler explained that he and other businesspeople in the area had all requested that gardaí step up their on-street presence.

While gardaí monitor the area on a regular basis, business reps have been asking for an almost permanent presence in the area to ward off the dealers and users. 

The force has been carrying out an initiative called Operation Citizen in recent months. This was as a result of the serious anti-social behaviour in the capital last summer. The plan, gardaí have said, involves 100 gardaí patrolling the areas around the Liffey Boardwalk and the quays area. 

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

Around the boardwalk area there are eight gardaí specifically tasked with patrols between the hours of 4pm and 4am.

Sources told The Journal that the drug violence problem is effectively being transported between garda districts.

Security sources explained: “Let’s say one area is being hit with a wave of dealing or anti-social behaviour due to drug use, a Garda operation is put in place to move these people on. But they still have to go somewhere and they’ll go to a place where they know they can use drugs and remain relatively well-hidden if needs be.

“This has happened in the Kevin Street area, around Pearse Street, O’Connell Bridge and now we have the problem on Liffey Street.”

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Image from iOS (3) The laneway where we observed several drug deals taking place. Source: The Journal

Staff members who spoke to us at the street this week also spoke of being intimidated and threatened while at work. 

One man who said he’d rather not have his name published but that that he was happy for it to be reported that he works in the local Spar shop said he had seen people dealing in the store on a regular basis and that shoplifting was an ongoing problem.

“They come in and they say ‘I know when you finish work. I’ll see you then. There will be nobody around then’. I am ringing the garda every single day about this and sometimes they show up in 30 minutes but sometimes it can be two hours or more. We have to go through this every day.”

Addiction problems

Crack cocaine became popular in Ireland around 10 years ago. Use of the drug – which provides users with a short, intense high much stronger than powder cocaine – has been increasing at an exponential rate.

The amount 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).

Dr Garrettt McGovern is a GP who specialises in addiction medicine. Dr McGovern said he has witnessed firsthand the devastation that crack cocaine can cause to both physical and mental health. 

He explained how crack addiction brings with it a mix of shame and desperation and that it’s an “ugly drug once it gets a hold of you”.”

Dr McGovern described how crack has been here for the best part of a decade but the numbers of those coming through the doors for his help do not seem to be slowing down. 

“One of the hallmarks of someone who uses crack is they are emaciated, there’s not much left of them really. It’s a bit like heroin – its a drug of the marginalised – you are seeing it more often in more disadvantaged areas.

The problems in the area have been highlighted to Dublin City Council, gardaí as well as local Government and opposition TDs. 

The Journal has contacted An Garda Síochána for comment. 

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