'Crack cocaine a big problem on city streets - and now it's getting worse'
Gardai heading one of the country's busiest drugs units are alarmed at the increase in the amount of crack cocaine hitting the capital's streets, saying the lethal drug is becoming a "huge problem".
Crack cocaine is highly addictive and causes its users to become extremely high, desperate and dangerous.
Officers from the North Central Divisional Drug Unit, based in Store Street Garda Station, have said that the potent drug, which can be smoked, has become a "huge problem" in Dublin's north inner city.
In one recent operation, they made a significant seizure of crack cocaine, which was "bagged" and ready to hit the streets.
Sgt Ciaran Whelan and Sgt Eric Kelly, who are in charge of the two seven-person units, said that young Irish men were almost exclusively responsible for the distribution of crack cocaine in the area.
In a six-week period earlier this year, the Drug Unit seized a staggering €370,000 of various illegal substances - which included crack cocaine valued at almost €50,000.
Only last week, the dedicated unit recovered €100,000 of heroin after carrying out an operation in the Dublin 1 area.
On February 27, more than €26,000 of crack cocaine was seized in a raid in the north inner city. More than €8,000 of cannabis was also recovered.
"We've seized more since. It [crack cocaine] is something we're seeing an increase of in the last year," Sgt Kelly told the Herald.
Sgt Whelan added: "Yeah, and not the way people normally thought, with foreigners [selling it]. These are a young Irish gang of lads who are cooking it, who are making it and who are selling it.
"I'd say you're talking close to €50k seized so far this year."
On March 31, gardai recovered more than €13,000 in crack cocaine after raiding an apartment in the Store Street district.
"It was ready to hit the streets," said Sgt Kelly. "They were bagged in certain deals and were ready to go down the ladder to dealers.
"It's worrying to see that there is so much crack and it's worrying to see that there is a demand for it there.
"It's one of those drugs people don't talk about or don't see as a problem. But it is - it's getting worse.
"Traditionally, it would be cannabis herb, grass, resin heroin. In the past year, there has been an increase in the seizure of crack cocaine in the division.
"It's a group of young lads that are doing it as a way of making money. They're still selling grass; you don't see them selling heroin, for some reason.
"It's probably dirty for them and they don't want to be seen as selling it in the area where they live. They wouldn't be users themselves," he added.
Asked how many lower-level and mid-level dealers were currently operating in the North Central Division, Sgt Whelan said it was difficult to categorise them at times.
"We seized €370k worth of drugs [in a six-week period]," he said. "That's a huge amount for a local unit.
"But we wouldn't sit down and say 'he's a mid-level drug dealer' or 'he's a lower-level dealer'. It's very hard to distinguish when you're talking about values.
"The last [crack seizure] was €15k worth of crack and €10k worth of cannabis.
"Some say that's a mid-level dealer, yet it's not. It's an individual who is being used and has very little to do with drugs, being targeted by a gang.
"You would think with that value to put her in that bracket. She's a nobody, being used by lads on the upper level.
"Even though she'll face the charges, she is really at the lower end, while the quantity is much higher."
Sgt Whelan previously revealed how the Hutch/Kinahan feud had made day-to-day operations more difficult, with an increased threat to officers.
"What's happened doesn't stop the day-to-day selling of drugs. It's still about making money. It has got more dangerous," he said.