More than 1,000 drug users arrested in Essex referred to treatment specialists
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More than 1,000 people arrested in Essex have been referred to specialist drugs workers in the past six months.
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 1,979 people tested between 1 April and 30 September 2023, more than half (1,122 or 57%) tested positive for cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin. And 1,079 of those have been referred to specialist drugs workers to be assessed.
By 30 September, 338 of those had already successfully completed a treatment course.
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, often, people arrested for violent offences have used cocaine and other Class A drugs. And we know many people steal to buy the drugs they are addicted to,” he says.
“So we’re working with drugs treatment services to turn people away from using these drugs and reduce their offending.
“If we can divert more people from using heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine, we believe we will see a reduction in violence and acquisitive crimes.
“Fewer crimes mean fewer victims,” adds Chief Superintendent Anslow. “And that will reduce the fear and misery drugs and drug use cause in our communities.”
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 treatment services we are working with across Essex: Phoenix Futures in the Essex County Council area, Forward Trust in Southend and Inclusion Visions in Thurrock.
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 30 September 2023, 42 people who refused have been or will be prosecuted for this, while 344 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.
He says: “Many crimes are fuelled by Class A drug use and we need to break this cycle. By testing people arrested for violent crimes, including domestic abuse, and drug-related or acquisitive crimes, such as theft, we can identify whether they are a drug user.
“If they are, they will need specialist help to stop taking drugs. So we will refer them to partner agencies who will provide the specialist treatment, counselling and education they will need to help them stop taking the drugs and, ultimately, divert them from criminal behaviour.”
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