EVIDENCE of a major crackdown against illegal drug-dealing in the Dungannon District has emerged after it was revealed that more drugs suspects have been stopped and searched in the local district than anywhere else West of the Bann.
According to the latest police figures, Dungannon had one of the highest figures for Northern Ireland – with more searches carried out in the local district than in West or North Belfast.
Dungannon police stopped 179 drug suspects over the past year, compared to 83 similar operations in Cookstown and 114 in Fermanagh.
South Belfast had the highest total at 542 stop and searches, with Larne the least at just 6.
Police have launched a battle to take drug dealers off local streets following concerns raised by parents and residents in Coalisland that dealers were targeting school children with free drugs.
They have almost doubled the number of community officers assigned to Coalisland in order to tackle the scourge of illegal drugs which are blighting the town.
The increased police presence, which has resulted in more patrols, higher visibility, and a local response to calls from the public,is part of a new strategy being advanced by Chief Inspector Alwyn Barton.
In total, there were 239 stop and searches in the local district including those made under the Terrorism Act. However, only 11 arrests were made as a consequence.
The figure represents a sharp drop from the previous year when there were 1154 stop and searches made in the Dungannon District, with 25 arrests made, a rise from the 2009 figure which saw 1001 stop and searches with 66 arrests.
It follows the European Court rejection of the UK government’s appeal that section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 violated the right to respect for private life.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland has said Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows officers to act without reasonable suspicion, was an important tool to combat dissident republican groups opposed to the peace process.