Drugs unit to return to Longford

A long running battle to secure the return of specialist officers aligned to the region’s divisional drugs unit has finally paid off, a meeting was told this week.

A long running battle to secure the return of specialist officers aligned to the region’s divisional drugs unit has finally paid off, a meeting was told this week.

Superintendent Denis Shields informed elected members of Longford town’s Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting the move is expected to be formally rubber-stamped in the new year.

The Garda chief said the exact number of personnel assigned to Longford was still being thrashed out, but confirmed the move had come on foot of a decision from his own superior, Roscommon-based Chief Supt Padraig Rattigan.

“There will be a presence (of drugs officers) in Longford in the new year,” he outlined to the Leader following Wednesday evening’s meeting.

The proposed relocation of dedicated officers specialising in drug crime comes after a JPC meeting held earlier this year.

At those discussions, Chief Supt Rattigan, who addressed members following a request made by Cllr Tony Flaherty, refused to rule out a possible change in the way gardai tackle organised crime locally.

Speaking about how much resources were presently being directed to curbing Longford’s drug trade, he said: “This (Longford) is where they (Divisional Drugs Unit) are spending most of their time.

“We are doing a re-evaluation at the minute and we will be doing a rotation in the very near future.”

Whether that re-appraisal was prompted by ongoing fiscal constraints remains unclear. However, for local representatives like Cllr Flaherty the decision couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

“I am delighted to see it,” he said afterwards. “It’s been a long time coming and is an issue I have been calling for for some time.

“It’s also encouraging to see that those calls haven’t fallen on deaf ears and that Chief Supt Rattigan has stuck to his word by acknowledging there is a drugs problem in Longford.”

The gradual change in mindset also follows revelations detailed by the Leader earlier this year that drugs officers were spending 85 per cent of their time tracking drug dealers living in the wider County Longford area.

Figures also provided to this newspaper show gardai recorded 22 cases of people being caught with drugs for the purposes of sale and supply in Longford last year, seven more than the figure for 2010.