Gangs paying drug addicts in heroin to carry out muggings
Russian thugs planning spree
FOREIGN gang bosses are offering homeless drug addicts heroin hits if they mug members of the public, the Mirror can reveal.
The thugs, working the sting in Belfast in the run up to Christmas, are believed to be preying on some of the country’s most vulnerable to make a profit.
But a security expert claims the developing issue is likely to be part of a larger gang culture where addicted recruits are tested for more serious crimes further down the line.
One recovering addict, who works on the ground in the city, said: “Word is out the Russians are in town and they’re paying in heroin, one hit at a time.
“They’re looking for stooges to do their dirty work. Who better than someone who thinks they’ve nothing to lose?
“Some will fall victim to it, others won’t. Eastern Europeans living and working in Northern Ireland are decent people like ourselves, but every community has its brutal bully boys. People need to understand the depths anyone can go to in the grip of addiction.
“Drug addicts have been used for years by gangs but now there are increasing numbers of gangs in Northern Ireland, the home-spun paramilitaries, the Triads and now Russian, Latvian and Lithuanian gangs, many of them former soldiers.”
The PSNI said there has not been a recent spike in reported street robberies in Belfast.
But one source revealed: “These people have been recruiting and Botanic Gardens has been a recent area of interest to them.
“But the nature of their activity means they move about. They can’t stay in one spot too long or they will just be closed down – and they’re not stupid.
“There are gangsters from many places across th e world working in Northern Ireland but the Russians are viewed as some of the most brutal.
“And they’re prepared to use others to do their dirty work so they can walk away clean.
“It’s a very risky business but the promise of a drug hit makes it appear worthwhile for some addicts. These gangmasters are involved in perpetuating a series of crimes which all feed off each other and they are the only winner.”
Kevin Bailey, director of homelessness services at the Simon Community Northern Ireland, said: “People experiencing homelessness are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and if they are being targeted or used to facilitate any sort of criminal activity, it i is of serious concern.
“Simon Community is committed to supporting anyone at risk of, or experiencing homelessness.
“We would appeal to anyone who needs support to contact our 24 hour helpline on 0800 171 2222.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “Police have not received any reports of this nature.
“There has neither been a spike in reported street r robberies, nor any incidents similar to those described.”
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