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Getting drug users away from crime and into treatment

prison bars

Prison Bars

Getting drug users away from crime and into treatment

A GROUNDBREAKING project aimed at getting drug users into recovery and away from crime is being rolled out across the Durham Constabulary area.

After a successful pilot scheme in Peterlee and Bishop Auckland police stations, the ‘Drug Test on Arrest’ policy has now been extended to cover all of the force’s custody suites.

It means custody staff can take a mouth swab from those detained in custody for certain offences which will test for the presence of cocaine and heroin. A positive result will mean the person is then required to attend two separate appointments with drug treatment staff; if they decline the test, or fail to attend the appointments the courts will be informed.

Drug addiction is one of the causes of ‘volume crime’ such as thefts from vehicles, sheds, shoplifting and burglary. Both Durham’s Chief Constable, Mike Barton and Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg believe tackling the issue of substance misuse will bring about long-term reductions in such crime.

It should also allow the force to concentrate on the suppliers, rather than users and  steer a significant number of users away from the criminal justice system and towards health-based resolutions.

Durham is leading the way nationally for the new procedure, which uses equipment provided by Draeger UK, a leading international company in the fields of medical and safety technology.

Although nationally other Drug Test on Arrest initiatives take place, the trials in Durham and Darlington are using equipment that will also show if the detained person has taken not only heroin or cocaine but other controlled substances. This enables the police and treatment services to provide the best response and treatment to enable the user to enter recovery at an early stage.

 “In our force area we have around 1,750 individuals currently in treatment for heroin and cocaine abuse. The drug intervention and treatment teams do a fantastic job in steering these people into the right services and ultimately recovery, but we can do so much more if we identify addicts at the point we first come into contact with them,” said Chief Constable Mike Barton.

“It has long been recognised that drug users commit crime to feed their habits. The Drug Test on Arrest programme should bring about swifter access to treatment, will significantly reduce offending and help keep our communities safer.”

In the first full week of the programme 40 tests were carried out with a number of positive results. Those who tested positive were found to be using not only the class A drugs of heroin and cocaine but also cannabis and in several cases other substances such as benzodiazepines and amphetamines.

The treatment and recovery services for the scheme are provided by two specialist agencies, ‘Addaction’ and the North East Council on Addictions (NECA).

“I strongly believe that as a country we should be doing more to help drug addicts into treatment and recovery. I fully support and welcome this work by the constabulary and hope that it results in more positive outcomes for the individuals involved and reduces the likelihood of reoffending,” said PCC Ron Hogg.

Mark Burrup, drug and alcohol specialist at Dräger, said: “It’s extremely positive to see our drug detection kits being used in innovative ways and supporting programmes such as ‘Drug Test on Arrest’.

“Dräger is an acknowledged expert in the manufacture of drug and alcohol testing equipment, launching the first ever breathalyser in 1953. With changing legislation, and as forces implement new policies, we have continued to develop solutions that support law enforcement professionals accurately test for a range of different substances. 

“We hope that police forces across the UK will soon be using Dräger detection kits to enforce new upcoming laws surrounding driving under the influence of drugs as well as continuing to use our kits to support new policies and programmes as we’ve seen at Durham Constabulary.”

Posted on Thursday 2nd October 2014
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