CHILDREN as young as seven are being used to pick up and deliver drugs in what local community worker Yvonne Sterritt describes as a “shame and a scandal”.
And it is just one of the shocking claims being made about the distribution and selling of drugs in the Garvaghy Road area.
A local man, who does not wish to be identified, said drug dealers had been targeting teenagers coming off a school bus and leaving the youth club.
He also said one woman carried drugs concealed beneath a baby in a pushchair. “There are certain families involved in this and they are using their own children and grandchildren to move these drugs.”
He said law-abiding parents living in the area were concerned about their own children getting involved. He added, “A lot of people know what’s going on but they are afraid to speak out. It’s no use keeping quiet - we need to bring it out in the open.”
Mrs Sterritt, who is chairman of Ballyoran Community Association and a member of the local policing partnership, said the primary school aged children, who are paid small amounts, were being used as couriers by the drug dealers as they were less likely to attract attention.
She said, “To use children like this is one the most vile things ever. Do the parents of these children know where they are and what is happening?
“There is a drugs problem here that needs to be addressed. Most of the people in this area are law-abiding and this pain is being inflicted on them by a small minority, who are leading children into a life of crime and addiction.”
She added, “Police are continuously trying to chip away at this problem but they need information. We all have a duty as a community to report anything we know, no matter how small.”
She pointed out that a fence recently erected near homes in Ballyoran Park, to deter drug dealers, was cut down within two days.
There will be an opportunity for residents to discuss concerns over drugs and other local matters at a meeting on Wednesday, June 27 in Ashgrove Community Centre at 7pm.
Representatives from the five estates - Garvaghy, Ballyoran, Churchill, Woodside and Obins Street - will be there as will the PSNI and a representative from the Police Ombudsman’s Office.