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Crack of all trades Up to 100 crack houses in parts of Dublin as dealers prey on weak and groom kids

The callous dealers wait for addicts on benefit days to take their money before they even get a chance to buy food, and in some cases are forcing women who owe them money to engage in sex acts to pay off debts.

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A user sits ready to shoot up.

A user sits ready to shoot up.

A user sits ready to shoot up.

Crack cocaine use is growing at “an exponential rate” in parts of Ireland as pushers continue to make life hell for local communities, according to drug workers.

People on the frontline of the latest drug epidemic have warned that the highly addictive narcotic is gaining a bigger foothold in communities around Ireland but it is not being properly tackled.

They have told how in Tallaght and surrounding areas in west Dublin there are upwards of 60 and possibly as many as 100 so-called crack houses which have been taken over by gangs.

The callous dealers wait for addicts on benefit days to take their money before they even get a chance to buy food, and in some cases are forcing women who owe them money to engage in sex acts to pay off debts.

In Ballymun – the first area in Dublin to notice a proliferation in crack houses more than three years ago – the drug continues to take its toll on the local community.

As we reported last month, a gang operating in the Whiteacre and Shangan areas was forcing addicts to cut down CCTV cameras to settle debts, with more than a dozen targeted since the start of the year.

Locals are also worried following the recent release from prison of a criminal associate of convicted drug dealer Glen Kiely, who survived a gun attack in 2017.

Kiely’s associate, a 27-year-old man, was released from prison less than two weeks ago and sources say he has been causing problems, particularly around the Shangan area.

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Discarded drug paraphernalia.

Discarded drug paraphernalia.

Discarded drug paraphernalia.

“He’s been causing trouble every night. It’s been hell for people since he came out,” said one source.

The 27-year-old’s home in Shangan was shot at more than three years ago as part of a feud and he was believed to be targeted due to his links to Kiely.

Gardai in Ballymun have carried out several raids on people linked to the crack trade in the area in recent weeks but the dealers continue to cause major headaches for locals.

Locals were pleased when Nathan ‘Chico’ Duffy was jailed last month after being caught with almost €100,000 worth of cannabis.

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Sources say Duffy was dealing “morning, noon and night” and while he was convicted over cannabis he was also involved in the crack trade. Duffy (20), from Graigue Court in Ballymun, ran a gang of young street dealers. While he was at a relatively low level in the overall hierarchy of the drug trade, he caused misery in his local area.

Older criminals are continuing to groom children to work in the drug trade.

Former mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, who is head of Ballymun Drugs Task Force, said it’s not a glamorous life.

“The number of young children being drawn in from 10 or 12 onwards... it starts off with a fiver to bring a package over there or telling someone who is on their bike to come around when the guards are coming and buying them a curry tray.

“They get a bit of money and then they’re sucked in and the next thing they’re on a street corner for 12 hours a day in the pouring rain in a miserable life. People have this idea that it’s glamorous, it’s anything but glamorous. You really are at the bottom of the pile and they’re the ones who are caught. People who are caught with €10,000 are not the big dealers.”

He said that fewer than three per cent of people in Ballymun are involved in crime but the crack dealers have caused major problems.

Mr Montague said it first became apparent that the drug was getting a foothold around four years ago.

“People were noticing. There was an increase in open drug dealing; aggressive begging and the local services noticed there was big increase in the neglect of children. People who are addicted to it are spending their money before buying food and eating. We’ve put a lot of effort into trying to provide those basics to families. It’s very difficult.”

Just like in Tallaght, addicts and other vulnerable people have had their homes taken over and turned into crack houses by gangs.

“We had that problem in Ballymun. We had about 20 takeovers. They go for somebody vulnerable and it’s awful. It might be someone with a physical handicap or an intellectual disability, they’ll run up a debt and then they arrive at the door and say we’re coming in for the next few hours and next thing they’re in there permanently.

“We had that problem but we managed to deal with it reasonably well. I know Tallaght has a huge problem with it at the moment.”

He said the council and gardai worked together to develop a protocol for dealing with crack houses.

“It’s about taking a human-based approach. What we tend to do is close up the house and almost get an agreement that the tenant will get an eviction but rehouse them in a more suitable location where they are more protected.”

Needle

Meanwhile, independent councillor Mick Duff, who helps run a drug treatment project and is a member of the Drugs Task Force in Tallaght, confirmed crack is a major issue in parts of the suburb.

“They’re seeing an exponential increase in Jobstown and Killinarden.

“The projects there have reported back to the Task Force that the numbers presenting with crack cocaine addiction, and the evidence they’re finding out themselves is there has been a significant increase in usage, so much so they’re out the window. In their needle exchange they’re handing out crack pipes and are experiencing very high numbers.”

Cllr Duff said there are major issues with people being intimidated over drug debts and in some cases being forced to take part in sexual acts with dealers to pay their debts.

“There are demands for money and where no money has been forthcoming in some places they have abused the situation by forcing some of the women to carry out sexual services.

“They wait around on benefit days at the post office and are taking the benefits off the crack user and that of course has a severe effect on the wider family.”

He said there had been a massive increase in the number of homes in the area which have been taken over by drug dealers and used as crack houses.

“The council are looking at the numbers presented to them in the order of about 100 houses that may well be used as crack houses. It’s a stark number and we have to look and see and get the facts.

“Most of the areas are very well established communities with a good history of community interaction and this can destroy the fabric of a community very rapidly.

“We would certainly be confident that it would be in the 60s at the very least but that is still a huge number. This will not be contained in those areas. It will spread. That’s what happened with heroin and other drugs.

Cllr Duff said South Dublin County Council is now following the lead of Ballymun in looking to shut down the crack houses and re-house the tenants.

He said more resources need to be put into the local communities to tackle the crack problem before it’s too late and a small amount of money now would reap huge benefits in years to come.

“It comes down to the Minister for Health. He’s been told innumerable times that this is a serious crisis. We’re not scaremongering, we are being sincere and genuine about what we’re seeing and warning him of this and he seems to be just looking out to sea and not hearing what’s being said.”

Mr Montague said that a lot of people with serious addiction issues had serious trauma in their lives and should not be looked at with contempt.

He said there is a particular shortage of social workers to help children before they potentially turn to things like drugs to cope.

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