Drug-related intimidation is an issue across north county Dublin, including the farming and rural communities, Detective Superintendent Paul Scott of Ballymun garda station has said.

Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal this week, Scott said this intimidation occurs when a member of a family acquires a drug debt and they aren’t in a position to pay.

“Organised crime gangs use those in the lower echelons of the group then to extract money from family members,” he said. The extortion can range from a couple of thousand euro up to €100,000, as was handed over in one case to organised crime gangs.

“These debts can accrue from cannabis or cocaine or any other drug, but it’s mostly cannabis or cocaine. The interest on the debt then increases.

“There’s no difference between the built-up areas or rural areas of north county Dublin. This is occurring right across the whole of society,” he said.

Often, money has changed hands before gardaí are told. “Gardaí can be called to a criminal damage incident or an assault or burnt out car,” he said, adding that it is only during the course of inquiries that gardaí are informed of the drug debt.

“We need to be contacted as soon as they get the demand for money,” he said.

Separately, gardaí in Dublin are committed to setting up rural patrols to target the people involved in trespassing and the theft of farm machinery, Detective Inspector Brian Downey from Malahide garda station said.

COVID-19 had a positive impact on rural crime, in that burglaries went down.

“They’re on the rise again and rural dwellers are being targeted by travelling gangs,” he said. Downey added that a lot of people still leave their back door open and their cars unlocked.

“The theft of jeeps is another thing. A farmer could leave it at one end of the field and be working at the other end but he has the keys left in the jeep,” he said.

He said the simple advice, such as locking doors and taking the keys out of the jeep, can reduce thefts. An alarm on your house is vital too, he said.

Both gardaí spoke at a recent IFA meeting on rural crime held in north Dublin. IFA crime prevention executive Barry Carey told the Irish Farmers Journal that specific counselling services are available to farming and rural communities to help deal with these issues.