More than 800 people arrested in Essex referred to specialist drugs workers after testing positive for Class A drugs
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We’re working to turn people away from Class A drug use and reduce their offending.
There is often a direct connection between Class A drug use and violence, either in the form of domestic abuse or as part of the night-time economy.
Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow, our force lead on drugs and alcohol, says disrupting this connection is key to reducing violent crime in Essex.
“We know that cocaine is all too frequently used recreationally and that it can inflame violence, particularly when combined with alcohol. “And we know from speaking to victims of domestic abuse and from our custody records that people arrested for violent offences often use cocaine and other Class A drugs.”
Since 1 April 2023, adults arrested in Essex have been asked to take a saliva test for cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin use if officers believe Class A drugs have contributed to the crime.
Tests are also automatically requested of any adult arrested in Essex for an acquisitive crime or possession of Class A drugs. Acquisitive crimes include theft, burglary, robbery and fraud which, along with certain drug offences, are also being targeted because people often deal drugs or steal to fund their drug habit.
Of the 1,519 people tested between 1 April and 23 August 2023, more than half (854) tested positive for cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin.
A positive result cannot be used as evidence of a previous crime but will be used to book an assessment with a specialist drugs worker from one of the three drugs charities we are working with across Essex: Phoenix Futures in the Essex County Council area, Forward Trust in Southend and Inclusion Visions in Thurrock.
“Anyone who tests positive will be referred to a specialist drug treatment programme to address their misuse of illegal drugs, which is often at the root of their offending.” Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow
Significantly, since the scheme started in Essex, 824 people have been referred to specialist drugs workers to be assessed and 330 of those have already successfully completed a course.
“If we can divert more people from using heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine, we believe we will see a reduction in violence in all its forms. “Many drug users also commit acquisitive crimes so they can buy the drugs they are addicted to. “We want to break that cycle, provide addicts with a chance to give up drugs, steer them away from crime by stopping their offending behaviour and help them to turn their lives around by giving them positive choices. “Most importantly, fewer crimes mean fewer victims. “Fewer victims of domestic violence or violence associated with the night-time economy or drugs gangs and fewer victims of acquisitive crime, too. “Evidence shows that providing access to drug and alcohol treatment services is good value for money because it cuts crime, improves people’s health and reduces the fear and misery drugs and drug use can cause in our communities.” Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow
While someone cannot be forced to take a saliva test, they can be prosecuted if they fail or refuse one. They can also be prosecuted for failing to attend an initial assessment or follow-up appointment with their drugs worker. Between 1 April and 23 August 2023, 38 people who refused have been or will be prosecuted for this, while 144 have been or will be prosecuted for failing to attend an assessment or follow-up assessment.
Ben Attridge is our drug test on arrest (DTOA) co-ordinator who follows up cases where someone does not attend a referral appointment.
“The success of drug testing on arrest in tackling addiction and all the misery that brings to addicts, their families and the wider community lies in the drug user actually stopping taking drugs and they will need specialist help to do that. “It does not happen overnight and can require a lot of treatment, counselling and education so we need to ensure that, having identified people who are Class A drug users, they access the help and support being made available to them.” Essex Police DTOA co-ordinator Ben Attridge
Government estimates from 2017 state harm from illicit drug misuse, including associated crime, health costs and lost productivity, was costing the UK £10.7billion a year. In the same year, there were estimated to be around 301,000 crack or opiate users in England.
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