A Derry councillor has warned that Heroin addiction is becoming an increasing problem in the city.
Independent Derry & Strabane Councillor Warren Robinson has now called for statutory agencies and community groups to help formulate responses to try and stop the deadly and highly addictive Class A drug being pedalled in local estates.
Colr. Robinson said there were now widespread concerns, particularly among parents with young and teenage children, that a number of dealers were selling Heroin from homes in their areas.
He added that local Heroin users trying to feed their habit may be linked to a spate of recent break-ins and attempted burglaries across the city.
He told the ‘Journal’ yesterday, “This is obviously very, very concerning. We thought in Derry we were immune to Heroin, but it has taken a foothold and made its way here now. There is more and more evidence of it.
“I think the warning signs are all there and local people are all too aware that it has got a hold.
“In terms of scale, it is probably small enough at this stage but it is here and people have to realise that. And it is definitely on the rise.
“The more you hear about it, it is very, very scary for anybody bringing up children in these areas.”
Colr. Robinson said he has received several reports of Heroin dealers operating from homes within estates in the Greater Shantallow area. “There are people who are afraid of their children playing in the street and will only allow their children to play in the back garden.”
He added that there are some families desperate to leave their areas because of this.
Commenting on the possible links between recent criminality and Heroin addiction, Colr. Robinson said went on: “I was talking to people in Glasgow at the weekend and basically this was something that happened there 20 years ago; these are people doing everything they can to feed their habit.”
“When you look at cities like Dublin and Glasgow and the experience of people dealing with this for a long time, Heroin goes hand-in-hand with burglaries and crime. It brings a raft of issues with it.”
The Health and Social Care Trust’s ‘Drugs and Solvents: A Parent’s Guide’ states that in Northern Ireland, the average age for first use of Heroin here is 22. Risks involved with injecting include HIV infection, coma and death from respiratory failure and overdose.
Colr. Robinson said there needs to be some sort of action now to try and tackle the problems already being experienced in the community.
“It has to be broad-based action, whether it’s statutory agencies to deal with people who are dabbling and at the first stages, before it gets a lot worse. There needs to be a community response as well.
“If action is not taken we could be looking at years of very serious issues in these areas as a result of it.”
When asked to comment on the potential link between criminality and drugs locally, PSNI Chief Inspector Paul McCracken responded yesterday: “Police are always keen to listen to concerns in the community surrounding drugs on our streets and we are constantly working to reduce the availability of drugs in our communities.
“Police know how drugs can wreck lives, not just of those of individuals who engage in illegal drug taking, but we are also well aware of the impact drugs can have on those individuals’ loved ones and on wider society.
“We know that drug addiction can lead to criminality, however, drugs are not the only contributory factor when it comes to crime being committed.
“The facts are that since April this year, overall crime in Derry City & Strabane District has experienced a reduction.
“There have been 23 fewer burglaries compared to the same period last year.”
At the same time, he said, 11 more drugs trafficking offences were dealt with and 48 more possession offences.
“We understand that for victims of burglaries these statistics provide little comfort, however, the public can be assured we are working all the time to reduce crime,” he insisted.
“We need the community’s support to help us catch those people in the community who commit crimes.
“If anyone has any information about illegal drugs contact police on 101, or anyone who wishes to provide information anonymously can call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”