frightening Cork TD warns that someone will be 'badly injured or worse' amid drug gang intimidation
"Young people and their families are threatened with violence by drug dealers who are coming to their doors"
A Cork TD has warned that the level of intimidation imposed by drug gangs on families to force them to repay drug debts has reached such a level that he fears someone will be badly injured or worse.
Deputy Thomas Gould of Sinn Fein was speaking after he raised the issue at the Cork City Joint Policing Committee (JPC).
It prompted a response from Cork City’s most senior Garda who appealed to families who have been subjected to intimidation because of drugs debts to report the incidents to gardaí.
Chief Superintendent Tom Myers said that while gardaí do not have increased reports of drug-related intimidation, he added: “I am not saying it is not happening out there. It is just that we are not getting too many complaints.
"I am aware from my former life in the drug unit that it is very intimidating for families of people who owe drug money to drug dealers and the intimidation can be a very, very serious matter,” the Examiner reported.
He urged people to come forward if they have been subjected to such threats.
“Those measures will be thoroughly investigated, I can assure you,” he added.
However, speaking to sundayworld.com, Deputy Gould said he had been aware of an escalation in the problem, particularly over the last six months.
“There has always been intimidation related to drug debts, where young people run up debts and the family would then be pressurised to pay it off,” he said.
“But what I’ve noticed in the last 12 months, and in particular the last six months, is that there has been an increase in the number of young people getting into major financial debt to drug dealers.
“And then those young people and their families are threatened with violence by drug dealers who are coming to their doors. It’s at a level that it has never been at before.
“What I’ve been told on the ground is that Dublin gangs have set up networks in Cork and are backing local drug dealers in the intimidation.
“This really just started rearing its head when people started contacting me as their local TD since late last year. And it seems to me that I’m getting more and more calls about it.
“I raised the matter with the guards because these people, local people, were not reporting it to the guards, they were coming to me instead.
“The guards say that they need for this to be reported to them, if they are to do anything about it.
“So that’s why I raised the suggestion that the national Drive (Drug-related Intimidation and Violence Engagement) Project is rolled out in Cork.
“As an evidence-based programme aimed at protecting those at risk of, and currently experiencing, drug-related intimidation it is vital this is rolled out soon,” he said.
“I’m just looking for some resources to be put into tackling this problem because it’s getting worse. I know two people who have businesses here in Cork who have had to pay their sons’ debts.
“I know other people who had to go to credit unions and take out their savings. Others have tried to raise the money through bank loans to clear the debts.
“For some people who have the access to that kind of money it can be done and they can move on with their lives, hopefully. But for others these levels of intimidation are quite frightening.
“They’re threatening everything from beatings to death. And this could be over amounts for as much as 12,000, which is the largest I heard, but they could be much larger.
“And it seems to me they are trapping people by applying interest rates to the initial debt.
“So the level of debt owed can escalate quite rapidly and would be way beyond what the original amount that was owed.
“It’s got to a point now where I fear that it's only a matter of time before someone is severely hurt or even worse.”
Gardai say they currently have a drug-related intimidation reporting mechanism in place, with contact details available for each division on the Garda website.
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