THE scrapping of the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phoneline earlier this month will have a detrimental effect on efforts to crack down on the scourge of addiction, according to a spokesperson for a local drug response service in Dublin 15.
Philip Keegan of the Greater Blanchardstown Response to Drugs (GBRD) was involved in setting up the pilot scheme of the drugs helpline, which proved so successful that it was rolled out throughout the country.
He and many others were shocked and angered when the helpline was suddenly scrapped this month following the Government’s decision to redirect funds to the Crimestoppers helpline instead.
According to Mr Keegan, the switch to a Garda run helpline will discourage citizens from calling to report any information they may have on drug dealing in their communities.
“The good thing about the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing phone line was that it was run independently and operated from England which assured the utmost confidentiality to those who called,” he told Northside People.
“But the Crimestoppers helpline is Garda run and it’s based in Ireland which might be a little unsettling for people. It’s still confidential but I’d imagine that people will still feel it’s a little too close to home.”
Mr Keegan believes a number of significant seizures in Dublin 15 were made possible because of information gathered through anonymous tip-offs on the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing hotline.
“It’s always been a case that members of the public know the dealers but they’re afraid to come forward,” he explained.
“The Dial to Stop Drug Dealing line didn’t generate an immediate response, which put people at ease because they would know that the information they provided would be part of an ongoing investigation or case.”
Over 9,000 calls were made to the phoneline since 2008, which led to over 2,500 reports to the Garda National Drugs Unit.
The information and intelligence passed on to the gardai helped the force to identify suspects and build numerous criminal cases against known individuals, which resulted in some significant seizures and arrests under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis (SF) now fears the closure of the helpline will make life easier for the “parasitic drug gangs” and harder for those who care about their communities.
“This will hit my own constituency of Dublin North West hard as it includes many very deprived and disadvantaged communities which have to deal with the worst of drug related crime on a daily basis,” he stated.
“The Government seem intent on making this struggle harder. We have seen cuts to drug taskforces, local community initiatives and CE schemes as well as cuts to Garda resources.
“One Garda station in the North West is set to close, one is to half its opening hours and another nearby in Cabra will have the same cut.”
Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty (Lab) also slammed the move to scrap the helpline.
“The phoneline was a genuine success in the battle against drugs and a vital support to communities,” he stated.
“What is most frustrating for frontline services and workers is that this decision was taken without any consultation or discussion with professionals working on the ground in communities to tackle substance abuse and stop drug pushing.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health which was responsible for the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing Helpline, confirmed that e25,000 in funding would be redirected to the Crimestoppers phone line in Drugs Task Force areas and other areas where there is a high concentration of drug activity.
“There has been no overall cut in funding,” the spokesperson told 00.
“The same level of funding is being applied in 2012 as in 2011.
“The decision is based on the very low number of calls that could be used by the gardai, typically less than 50 per month, received by the Dial to Stop Drug Dealing line.
“The public will still be encouraged to make complaints on drugs activities using the Crimestoppers line on 1800-250025.
“The line is open from 9am until 9pm daily. Calls to Crimestoppers are anonymous and callers do not need to leave their name and address.”