Police crackdown on dealers using social media messaging to sell drugs and firearms

Police crackdown on dealers using social media messaging to sell drugs and firearms

DETECTIVES in Northern Ireland are investigating the illegal sale of drugs via social media apps.

Under Operation Dealbreaker PSNI officers are currently focusing on criminals offering drugs for sale on messaging apps that have been identified from mobiles seized within the Greater Belfast area.

“Within these private groups, a seller typically offers to supply all kinds of drugs, as well as counterfeit goods and currency,” Detective Superintendent Emma Neill said.

“On a small number of occasions, even firearms have been offered,” she added.

“The drugs are often listed in menu-style formats: with the list of drugs available, the respective breakdown of prices per quantity, and an explanation of how to purchase.”

Det Supt Neill added: “We recognise that a large number of group members are not actively engaged in criminality.  Some may be recipients of unwelcome messages, in which case our advice is simply to leave the group immediately.

“And, unfortunately, some individuals may be suffering from addiction.  We’ve therefore commenced the process of messaging, and signposting to support, those who wish to get help for drug misuse.

“Those, however, who are offering illicit goods or who are engaged in criminal offences are being robustly investigated.

Detectives from the PSNI’s Organised Crime Branch have identified over 50 mobile numbers of those “engaged in the most serious criminal, drug-related activity”, they confirmed this week.

“Since May of this year, we have conducted 18 related search operations and arrested 14 people,” Det Supt Neill confirmed.

“Nine of those arrested have been charged to court, with the remainder released on investigative bail,” she added.

“During the searches, quantities of Class A, B and C controlled drugs, along with cash and high value assets have been seized.”

PSNI officers are cracking down on dealers who use social media messaging apps to sell drugs

The Police Service works with a wide range of partners, including those represented on the Organised Crime Task Force, to tackle the supply and use of illicit drugs.

It also works with the Department of Health and Public Health Agency, along with a number of charities.

“This investigation is just one part of ongoing and huge collective efforts to tackle the scourge of drugs,” Det Supt Neill confirmed.

“Drugs can be distributed by individual dealers or by organised crime groups, thus feeding wider organised criminality.

“Whatever the source, we have seen the same devastating aftermath all too often. We’ve seen vulnerable lives ruined and lost, with families left to pick up the pieces.”

She added: “Anyone who thinks they might have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs and would like to get help can visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info."

The website also includes details of services available for individuals affected by someone else’s drinking and/or drug misuse.