Debt, threats, distress, hope: Report looks into drug-related intimidation

by Sylvia Pownall
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Parents and partners of drug users in Dublin’s north east inner city are at high risk of debt intimidation from dealers, a new report has found.

An Liffey Drug Project launched its report, Debt, Threats, Distress and Hope: Towards Understanding Drug-Related Intimidation in Dublin’s North East Inner City earlier this week.

The study was carried out by the ALDP with support from Technological University Dublin, drawing on the lived experience of drug-related intimidation.

It found that four in five respondents believed parents of users or dealers, predominantly mothers, were at particular risk of victimisation.

The survey was carried out among hundreds of people over the age of 18 who live and work in the area. It found that drug-related intimidation is partly responsible for the destruction of a sense of community among locals.

Forms of drug-related intimidation reported to researchers included physical violence, coercion into sex work, and, in one instance, a demand for deeds to a house to pay off a drug debt.

Some participants said the supply of drugs “on tick” could lead to an accumulation of debt over time, which in turn could lead to intimidation.

One victim revealed: “You would have a lot of lads getting stuff on tick because especially with coke, you do see it at parties and you’d get, you know an eight or a couple of eights.”

One focus group participant recalled an incident where a woman who informed gardai of drug-related activity was targeted.

They recounted: “They came back the next day and smashed every one of her windows because the police was called because they were on the corner selling all that day and they were fighting.”

Focus groups found time and again that the user’s mother is targeted and forced to get a loan from the credit union to clear the debt.

Less than half (49%) of respondents to a survey reported that they would feel comfortable engaging with a garda over intimidation.

Ana Liffey CEO Tony Duffin said that the report showed that drug-related intimidation is more complex than people getting into debt over their drug use.

“In reality, even living in a location where dealing takes place can be sufficient for a person to become a target of intimidation,” he said.

“The sad truth is that many people do not feel safe in their communities, and this is something that we should all have an interest in addressing.”

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