Northern Ireland

Heroin: Community concern over use of drug in Belfast

Syringe, a bag of heroin and heroin on a spoon being prepared for injection Image copyright PA
Image caption The PSNI said they believe that there could be as many as 1,500 people who take heroin in Northern Ireland but denied claims that the drug is a growing problem

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have arrested almost 30 people suspected of dealing or using heroin in Belfast in the past four months.

Despite concern among some community organisations, the PSNI said it does not believe heroin use is increasing.

The PSNI estimated there could be up to 1,500 heroin users in Northern Ireland.

Some community representatives said they fear problem is getting worse, but PSNI Det Insp Andy Dunlop said there was no evidence to prove that.

"In terms of an escalating problem (or) a growing problem in Belfast, I do not think that's the case," he said.

"I think the figures over the years, in terms of the people using the drug, and the amount of drugs we have seized has pretty much remained constant."

Image caption Det Insp Andy Dunlop said there was no evidence to support concerns that the heroine problem is getting worse

However, among certain grass roots organisations there is a belief that the heroin problem in Northern Ireland is growing.

'Power bases'

Alex Bunting who works with the charity Forum for Action on Substance Abuse (FASA) said he believes the heroin problem is getting worse.

"We have seen an increase and a new user group coming through. So younger users, people who would not necessarily become involved with the drug are now becoming involved with it," he said.

"We are also seeing a new level of the selling or dealing of the drug. We are seeing new groups establish themselves and establish power bases within Belfast in particular."

According to the PSNI, a combination of local criminal gangs and others led by foreign nationals are thought to be the behind the supply of heroin into Northern Ireland.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: "The reality is there is a range of organised criminal gangs, some of which are home grown, for want of a better phrase word, and some of which, we believe, have foreign nationals behind them."

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