Home > Horizontal Working Party on Drugs – responding to street-level drug markets.

Connolly, Johnny and Donovan, Anne Marie (2008) Horizontal Working Party on Drugs – responding to street-level drug markets. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 25, Spring 2008, p. 20.

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The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG), a working group of the Council of the European Union, convened in December 2007 during the Portuguese presidency to discuss measures to curb the distribution of drugs at street level.1

Street-level drug markets and related crime and nuisance have been the focus of increased attention in recent years. Organisations such as the International Narcotics Control Board,2 the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)3 and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe4 have highlighted the importance of this issue. In addressing the HDG, the EMCCDDA points to the limitations of reliable data in this area. The EMCDDA is currently developing a project to improve local reporting of street-level drug distribution.
Presentations from Portugal, the UK, Cyprus and Ireland gave an indication of the diversity of strategies employed by EU states to tackle open drug markets. However, a theme common to all presentations was the importance of effective partnerships between law enforcement, other statutory agencies and local communities.
The Portuguese delegates emphasised the importance of partnership between policing authorities and local populations for the purpose of effective intelligence and information gathering. They identified continuous monitoring of drug use and availability in local populations as a priority. In their presentation on a community policing project launched in 2003, the Cypriot delegation, also considered the importance of co-operation between law enforcement and the community. In that project, community police provide reassurance at local level by means of house-to-house calls, public lectures, visits to key areas and attendance at events within the community.
A recent UK initiative involved a concentrated drive to disrupt drug markets, employing supply-reduction methods within a multi-agency framework. The UK delegation reported that this initiative led to a decrease in acquisitive crime, a disruption of local drug markets and increased insight into how such markets operated. Focused legislation in place since 2003 has facilitated the rapid closure of over 1,000 premises used in connection with the sale and distribution of Class A drugs (‘crack houses’ in particular). Similarly to the other presenters, the UK delegates emphasised the importance of communication and partnership between the local population and law enforcement authorities.
The Irish delegation provided an overview of recent local policing initiatives in the context of the establishment of pilot Joint Policing Committees (JPCs) under the provisions of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. These JPCs are to be established in 114 local authority areas throughout the state. Their primary functions are to serve as a forum for consultation, discussion and recommendations on local policing matters and to keep under review levels of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, including the patterns and levels of misuse of alcohol and drugs. JPC members will be drawn from local authorities, gardaí, public representatives and representatives from the community and voluntary sector. Furthermore, Section 36 of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 provides for the establishment of local policing fora by a JPC. In light of Action 11 of the National Drugs Strategy, priority will be given to establishing such fora in all local drugs task force areas and other areas experiencing problems of drug misuse. At present, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law reform is co-ordinating a process of drawing up guidelines for these local policing fora.
The HDG concluded that the sharing of information about best practice in this area was crucial in developing an EU-wide approach. It also highlighted the ongoing work of groups such as the Pompidou Group’s EXASS Net (European network of partnerships between stakeholders at frontline level responding to drug problems providing experience and assistance for inter-sectoral co-operation),5 the European Forum for Urban Safety6 and the European Crime Prevention Network.7
1. Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (2008) Conclusions on the thematic debate – preventing the distribution of drugs at street level. Cordrogue 14 SAN 14. Brussels: Council of the European Union.
2. International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) (2004) Report 2003. New York: United Nations Publications.
3. EMCDDA (2005) Annual Report 2005: Selected issues. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
4. Connolly J (2006) Responding to open drug scenes and drug-related crime and public nuisance – towards a partnership approach. Strasbourg: Pompidou Group, Council of Europe.
5. http://www.exass.net/forum/login.php
6. https://efus.eu/en/
7. http://www.eucpn.org/
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Page Range
p. 20
Health Research Board
Issue 25, Spring 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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