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feud not over Fears grow new criminals will fill void left after gardaí dismantle Drogheda gangs

There have been four murders, six attempted murders and numerous intimidation related crimes, directly or indirectly related since 2018

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Superintendent Andrew Watters praised the efforts

Superintendent Andrew Watters praised the efforts

Superintendent Andrew Watters praised the efforts

Three years after gardaí established a special operation to tackle feuding criminals in and around Drogheda, children are back playing on streets.

Gardaí say the Co Louth town is now in a much better place, although they acknowledge the feud is still not over.

They are also working to ensure that other criminals do not try to fill 'the gap' they perceive exists as a result of the success of tackling those involved in the feud.

The feud began in 2018 when one organised crime gang split into two and the attempted murder of one of the leaders of one side began a series of tit-for-tat violent incidents.

There have been four murders, six attempted murders and numerous intimidation related crimes, directly or indirectly related, in the intervening years.

Garda Superintendent Andrew Watters said: "One night in 2019, we actually ran out of gardaí to preserve the number of scenes that we had to preserve. It was as bad as if there was a house burnt or targeted in one part of the town, there would be a retaliatory strike somewhere else. It was a huge challenge."

Gardaí asked for additional resources and got them, and they were needed.

"At one stage, you could say we were dealing with up to 200 people involved between both sides of the feud, that is not an exaggeration," he said.

However, he added: "I am confident we are in a much better place now.

"One comment made two to three years ago was that you don't see kids walking the streets of (particular) housing estates."

Residents recently told him: "It is a much better place to live. The kids are back out on the streets.

"They see we have taken on and tried to deal with the people wrecking havoc within their communities. They appreciate we have done everything we can but we have to reassure them we will continue to do that."

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Since Operation Stratus was established in 2018 there have been "in excess of 3,100 proactive checkpoints, in excess of 6,700 proactive patrols (foot patrols and mobile patrols)".

Between drugs and assets, gardaí in Drogheda seized over €1m last year alone.

Last year, they made 98 detections of drugs under section 15, which is for sale and supply of drugs. By the end of June this year, they had made 62 detections.

Superintendent Watters said: "I would respectfully suggest that maybe the likes of Blanchardstown or Crumlin in the DMR or the North Inner City (Dublin) compare with that level of sale and supply of drugs and detections for it.

"That is a huge success on behalf of gardaí, but particularly the drugs unit."

However, he said the violence is not over yet.

"The visible signs of it may have slowed down a bit, i.e. the burning of houses and cars and visible assaults, but it is not over and the target for gardaí now is to complete a number of serious investigations that are outstanding."

Part of the Garda response was to establish DCAT - District Community Action Team - which is an extension of Community Policing.

"There are a lot of people in this town who see a gap because we now have some of the key players either charged and before the courts or locked up. Some are on the run."

He said this is seen as a chance for others "to move into what they see as the gaps".

"They are the ones we have to keep the lid on now, that is one of the main tasks," he said.

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