The City Council recorded a 129% increase in the number of complaints it received concerning drug abuse by its tenants in 2008, ranging from casual personal drug use to those charged with supplying illegal drugs.
Incidence of alcohol and alcohol abuse were up 300% in the local authority’s Annual Antisocial Behaviour Report, figures which Sinn Féin councillor David Cullinane says are entirely consistent with Garda records.
Overall, the Council received 240 complaints in 2008 regarding a variety of issues, from noise pollution to concern about drug misuse. This figure represented a decrease of 9% on the previous year. However Cllr Cullinane suggested the 2008 report does not adequately take into account the violence relating to the recent Traveller feud. This, he said, gives rise to the belief that many people in communities are fearful of coming forward.
A City Council spokesperson confirmed that the rate of drugs complaints had risen from 7 in 2007 to 16 in 2008. The number of calls in relation to alcohol or solvent abuse at a City Council house went from 3 in 2007 to 12 the following year. City Council Administrative Office Paul Kelly said the local authority had two options when it came to complaints regarding drug use at one of its houses, the application to the District Court for an Eviction Order, in the case of a tenant convicted on a drugs offence or an Exclusion Order, when a child of a City Council tenant has committed the offence.
To date, the Council has successfully sought and implemented one Exclusion Order, Mr Kelly confirmed. Three Eviction Orders are currently before the courts, though none have been carried out as yet. Mr Kelly noted that Waterford City Council had one of the lowest reported rates of anti social behaviour of city boroughs around the country: given that there were 2,920 local authority homes in the city, he said the 240 complaints received was a comparatively lower number. He encouraged anyone with grievances regarding a local authority house to contact the office on 051 849 781.
Cllr Cullinane has pointed to a series of recommendations made by Sinn Féin in its submission to the 2009 Local Policing Plan, calling for a doubling of the numbers in the Garda Drugs Squad, a ring fencing of Community Gardai for community purposes and an increased Garda presence at the city’s port and airport to ensure proper detection.
“We also need to see increased investment in community based drug programmes. It is important that investment is made in preventative, educational, family support and treatment programmes”, he said.