herald

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Game of drones as prisons fight war against drug drops

Drones are used by gangs
Drones are used by gangs

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) is set to commence battle in a "game of drones" with cunning gangs trying to drop drugs into jail yards using the devices.

Drones are increasingly being used to fly drug packages and other contraband into prisons.

Six drones have been recovered by the IPS in the last 18 months.

Five were at Wheatfield and one in Limerick, but there have also been attempts to drop drugs at Mountjoy and Castlerea.

Frustrated

At the Prison Officers' Association's annual conference in Sligo, frustrated officers called for urgent action.

While the IPS said it had plans to implement "technical solutions", it would not reveal what it had up its sleeve.

"We've recently been looking at different technological solutions available to us to deal with this issue and I'm glad to say that we are close to introducing a new technology on a trial basis in one of our prisons to see if this can assist us with keeping contraband out," said IPS director general Caron McCaffrey.

"This is an issue that's not just unique to the prison service, it's also an issue that is facing other areas in society.

"We've seen recently the impact that drones have had in Gatwick Airport so certainly we're not complacent.

"Staff from our operations directorate recently attended an international forum where we were looking at best practice and emerging technologies in relation to dealing with the issue of drones and other security threats to prisons."

But Ms McCaffrey said care must also be taken to deal with drones in a way that does not affect the safety of the wider public.

Dangers

She said there couldn't be a situation where a drone carrying drugs ended up falling to the ground in a populated area where it would present dangers to local communities.

"We're very cognisant of ensuring the safety of the public and the safety of prisoners and staff within our prisons," Ms McCaffrey added.

"The solutions that we're looking at have to have to the forefront issues and considerations of safety."

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