THE Mayo superintendent in charge of major crimes in the county says the controversial new policing model is aiding the Gardaí in the fight against drugs.
Since the new Mayo Divisional Drugs Taskforce was launched in December, drugs worth in the region of €1.2 million has been seized in Mayo. The task force now includes two sergeants and seven gardaí.
The first six months of the year has seen large increases in the number of grow-house detections along with increased drug sale-and-supply detections.
Supt Joe McKenna, who is in charge of the Major Crimes Unit in the county, told a meeting of the Mayo Joint Policing Committee that the new policing model has given gardaí more flexibility to catch drug dealers.
“The new model has enabled us to provide more resources for the detection of drugs offences and given me the job of overseeing serious crime for the entire county. It creates greater flexibility for us and allows us to take a countywide approach in looking at trends of crime rather than just one district area like it was in the past,” he told members.
The Mayo Garda Division was one of four Garda Divisions chosen to pilot a new concept of policing called the Divisional Policing Model. The new model will free up an estimated ten gardaí per division from administrative duties for redeployment to the frontline. However, some gardaí in Mayo have privately criticised the model, saying that instead of increasing frontline workers it has decreased them.
Supt McKenna told the meeting that as well as seizing €1.2 million worth of drugs, gardaí have also seized €30,000 in counterfeit currency and €20,000 in cash. He said five cannabis grow-houses have been disrupted with the amount of drugs present ranging from €64,000 to €432,000.
He also advised people renting properties to carefully vet prospective tenants.
“We are advising home owners and auctioneers to be on alert for this type of activity because it causes significant damage to the properties. In many cases people don’t realise the homes they are renting out are used for grow houses, and we ask anyone who suspects criminal activity of this nature to contact us immediately,” he said.
Supt McKenna added that the division in Mayo now has six members trained in Criminal Asset Bureau profiling who will be looking to seize the assets of local people involved in the drug trade. He added that the unit has also had the assistance of the Armed Support Unit and the Garda Dog Unit, which has increased detections.
Erris-based councillor Gerry Coyle told the meeting that he believes that people caught with drugs in their car should have their car seized and their licence taken away for life, saying it would be ‘more than a sentence than sending them to Mountjoy when they are home as quick as the guard bringing them up’.