Police take £2.8m worth of drugs off Mid Ulster’s streets in the last year

Drugs: The problem in Mid Ulster

Drugs: The problem in Mid Ulster

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Cookstown has overtaken both Dungannon and Magherafelt in relation to the number of drugs seizures carried out in the town over the last year.

Between April 2013 and March 2014 the town was dwarfed by both its neighbours on the number of drugs busts police had recorded.

Cannabis plants

Cannabis plants

Yet a 16 per cent jump put it firmly at the top of the Mid Ulster table during the same period of 2014-2015, even though the number of seizures and arrests were down in the district from the previous year.

The PSNI has carried out an average of four stings a week in relation to drugs in the area over the last year, taking almost £2.8m worth of illicit substances off our streets.

But, the major drug busts in Mid Ulster seem to have taken place in the Magherafelt and Dungannon areas.

This includes the discovery of £2.5m worth of cocaine at a Ballygawley furniture factory in November, three sizeable cannabis seizures around Magherafelt worth almost £0.5m in total, for which four men were charged, and the discovery of cannabis plants worth £174k in Pomeroy.

Police found this Cannabis farm near Magherafelt in May

Police found this Cannabis farm near Magherafelt in May

With what appears to be a growth in cannabis farming operations in the local area, Martin McCann from TIPSA has warned anyone who is considering taking the drug to think twice.

“There’s concerns for us that locally produced stuff could possibly have a higher potency as they don’t have to go through as many middle men. If it’s made elsewhere then the quality is going to be lower because it will have been cut and bulked out and mixed with other stuff.”

And the reason he thinks police have discovered such large drug operations in recent years in Mid Ulster, is because “people see this area as a good place to go as it’s largely rural - there’s loads of places to hide. We are close to all the good roads”.

He also said the increase in the number of cannabis factories could be down to the fact that “in the recession cannabis production is one of the few profit making businesses”.

Cannabis from March raid in Magherafelt

Cannabis from March raid in Magherafelt

“A few years ago if anybody wanted cannabis it had to be imported,” he explained, “now they’ve improved their production over here that much that it seems to be that we are now actually exporting it as well.

“A lot of stuff may not be for local use.”

Speaking about the PSNI’s successes on drugs across Mid Ulster’s towns and villages, Chief Inspector Jane Humphries said: “Drug dealers should know that we continually work against them. Our work to disrupt their activity continues. We are also in our school educating our young people about the dangers of drug taking. And I have officers working hard and planning operations to put drug dealers before the courts and reduce harm to our communities. The police and other agencies are doing their utmost to tackle the scourge of drugs, but information and local knowledge are key. If you see or know of anyone who is dealing drugs in your local area, then contact your local police on the 101 number or alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 and pass on any details that you may have.”