Huge increase in public fear of drug crime
Drugs have overtaken alcohol abuse as the main reason people in Northern Ireland fear they will be a victim of crime.
The Perceptions of Crime survey, commissioned by the Department of Justice, found that 80 per cent of those questioned identified drugs as the perceived cause of crime, with 60 per cent citing alcohol as a root cause of increased crime.
The annual survey of households in Northern Ireland measures crime victimisation rates, regardless of whether or not the crimes were reported to, or recorded by the police and people's perception of crime and its causes.
As well as drugs and alcohol a 'lack of parental discipline' was also put forward as a perceived reason for increased crime, with parental control cited by 53 per cent of survey respondents.
When asked what single factor was considered to be the main cause of crime, the most common responses, of respondents were drugs, alcohol and a lack of discipline from parents.
Around 60 per cent also thought crime levels in Northern Ireland had increased in the last two years.
Despite a lower crime rate than in Britain, respondents expressed high levels of worry which were similar to an identical survey carried out in England and Wales.
While the majority of respondents believed it unlikely that they would fall victim during the coming year, 11 per cent of respondents thought it was likely that they would be the victim of a burglary, while five per cent perceived themselves to be at risk of violent crime and four per cent stating their quality of life is greatly affected by their ‘fear of crime'.
Gerry McConville, of the Falls Community Council's Community Drug Programme, said the statistics "comes as no surprise at all" to those working on the ground adding that it "reinforces local surveys carried out in Belfast and other areas".
"The rise in drug related crime is very noticeable as is its link to organised gang crime.
"This of course heightens the fear among the community and we all need to work collectively to combat drug crime and to reassure local people that it is being dealt with effectively.
"This means not only justice agencies but also resources need to be provided within the community to work to provide community-led drug prevention and intervention programmes", Mr McConville added.