A recent report commissioned by Dublin City Council suggests that Ballymun in north Dublin is experiencing a “surge” in crack cocaine use, drug dealing and youth crime.

The number of drug offences in the former high-rise area has doubled over the past four years. Senior gardaí who contributed to the report stated that open drug dealing is happening on a scale seen in few other communities in Ireland.

Although the physical regeneration of Ballymun has largely been completed, parts of it are still some of the most socially deprived communities in the State. The area has the highest levels of children in care, increasing rates of drug crime and 10 times the national average level of opiate users.

These opiate users have been heavily targeted by drug dealers, who in many cases have succeeded in getting them hooked on crack cocaine.

The large increase in crack cocaine use in particular has resulted in a spate of “cuckooing” – a phenomenon whereby criminal networks invade and occupy the homes of vulnerable tenants including addicts, elderly people, and those with mental health issues or physical disabilities.

The surge in drug offences and open drug dealing coincided with reduced Garda numbers in the community policing and drugs units. The report said: “This reduction in policing may have been a key factor in the significant rise in drug problems in the area.”

The report, Ballymun – A Brighter Future, noted that up to 50 additional gardaí should be deployed to tackle the community’s crime hot spots.

It also suggested that more investment is needed for child protection and family support services. The area has twice the national average number of children in care. However, despite having the State’s highest allocation of child protection staff, many of these posts remain vacant.

The report concluded: “While we can’t eliminate addiction and all criminal activity, we can do more to protect the next generation of children growing up in Ballymun and reduce the number of traumatic experiences in their lives. This will help prevent them from being drawn into serious substance misuse and criminality.”

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