Donegal’s top Garda officer has issued a stark message regarding the scourge of drugs facing the county - and, in particular, the problems due to a big increase in cocaine use.
“Let’s not fool ourselves, it (cocaine) is everywhere,” Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn told a meeting of the Donegal Joint Policing Committee.
She also disclosed that there are parents of children in Donegal who are borrowing money to pay off their children’s drug debts.
Her comments came at the JPC meeting in Lifford, where members heard that drug-related offences in Donegal soared last year with a total of 457 cases - up from 273 in 2018.
The bulk of these were for possession (375 cases in 2019, compared with 234 in 2018).
Worryingly, however, the number of cases of possession of illicit drugs for sale or supply more than doubled, from 39 in 2018 to 82 in 2019.
Supt. McGinn also stated that many young people are now preferring to take a line of cocaine rather than alcohol.
“Cocaine is big,” she declared.
And she added: "The biggest problem for policing is the supply of illicit drugs."
The meeting, on Friday, also heard that many pubs and nightclubs are struggling to try and combat the issue.
Indeed, staff in many licenced premises are using bleach and vaseline on surfaces in toilets in a bid to stop people snorting cocaine.
Earlier in the meeting, Sgt. Paul Forrester did a presentation on drug driving and the recently introduced measures to tackle what is becoming an increasing problem.
Eight new drug testing machines are now in use by garda patrols in Donegal.
Last year, there were 70 detections: the figure for this year has already passed the 20 mark with 11 cases in the last week.
With more gardaí having been trained up, there will be an increase in checkpoints in the months ahead.
Concern was also expressed at the meeting regarding an increase in domestic violence and also assaults, especially in the Letterkenny Garda Division.
Meanwhile, those in attendance also heard that three new garda cars were allocated to the Donegal Division in December 2019, but it is still seeking further new vehicles.
Four more Garda Probationers are due to be allocated this month.
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