A crackdown on drug dealing in Belfast parks has been hailed by the Sinn Fein MLA for the area.
But ex-Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleior also said the operation has given cause for alarm, particularly since much of the dealing is linked to heroin.
The PSNI have been aware of heroin sales taking place in Ormeau Park and Botanic Gardens since last summer.
Mr O Muilleoir, who was co-opted to the Assembly in October, said: “While it is be to welcomed that the PSNI have conducted a major anti-drugs operation and have made arrests, I would be greatly concerned at reports that these have been focused on the sale and use of heroin.
“We’ve witnessed in places like Dublin how heroin use in particular can ravage communities. Those with addictions should be encouraged to seek help and that help should be forthcoming.
“However, those who prey on people with addictions and seek to make personal gain from the sale of illegal drugs such as heroin deserve no consideration from the community.”
The PSNI said in a statement yesterday: “From around mid-2014 we witnessed an increase in reports of drug activity in local parks and on city centre streets.
“Council workers were coming across increasing numbers of discarded needles and members of the public were also reporting concerns about drug dealing taking place...
“The drugs we’re coming across range right across the spectrum but in the parks it is mainly class A.
“While there has always been a degree of heroin activity in Belfast, from mid-2014 we certainly regarded it as an emerging critical issue for us and one that we were resolved to focus on.”
The statement added: “We have been placing particular emphasis on dismantling the ‘organised’ aspect of the drug activity we’ve been finding.
“The information and intelligence we were receiving certainly indicated that there was an emerging organised method of dealing on the streets.
“Seventeen arrests have been made in connection with this organised aspect and four of those individuals have since been remanded.”
To report any kind of dealing activity, report that to us either via 101 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.