Drug testing on arrest can help people escape cycle of re-offending says top police officer
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More than 1,460 people arrested in Essex are being helped to turn their lives around after testing positive in custody for Class A drugs.
Detainees are required to take a saliva test for cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin if officers believe these drugs have contributed to the crime or if they have been arrested for acquisitive crimes, such as theft, burglary, robbery and fraud, or certain drug offences.
Our scheme started on 1 April 2023 and, by 31 December, 2,764 people had been tested, with more than half (1,508 or 54.6%) testing positive.
Of those, 1,463 have been referred to specialist drugs workers to be assessed as to whether they are suitable to attend a treatment course to help beat their addiction, which is often the cause of their offending.
Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow, our force lead on drugs and alcohol, says:
“Drug testing on arrest is helping people to turn their lives around by providing them with the support they desperately need to beat their addiction. People who may not otherwise have accessed help are being given the opportunity to do so. “If they are referred on to one of the drugs treatment services we work with, a further assessment is made of their needs and they may also be offered additional support to help them deal with other issues, such as their mental or physical health and housing. “Drug use is often a catalyst for violence. Defeating addiction eliminates this spark and also removes need to commit crime to fund it.”
Following his arrest for drug-related offences, a 52-year-old man tested positive for cocaine and heroin.
Acknowledging long-term illegal drug use at his initial assessment, the man was referred on to Open Road to treat his drug addiction, supported to attend his doctor to address physical health concerns and referred to the Full Circle OCAN service for support with his mental health and finances and to engage with Social Care.
A 43-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of shoplifting was referred to Phoenix Futures because she tested positive for cocaine.
She disclosed that shoplifting funded her alcohol and drug misuse. She had been diagnosed with a personality disorder, was in an abusive relationship with a controlling partner and struggled with her mental health.
As well as being referred to substance misuse and domestic abuse services and the Mental Health Wellbeing Team, she was also helped to engage with Children’s Social Care after her daughter was referred to them by her school.
Harm reduction advice and information is also delivered to everyone who attends their initial assessment and not everyone needs to be referred onwards. appointments.
Chief Superintendent Anslow says:
“For people on the margins of problematic drug abuse who haven’t got a long criminal record but may be at risk of further offending, simply educating them about the harm their substance misuse will cause them can have a positive effect and divert them from a downward spiral.”
A 24-year-old woman who tested positive for cocaine after her arrest for a public order offence disclosed at her initial assessment that she had previously been diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. However, she’d never been given any support, despite having problems processing and retaining important information relating to her health, substance misuse and housing.
Now she’s been referred to the Vulnerable Adults Service and an adult social worker is helping her to liaise with her doctor and other medical professionals, while she also attends weekly sessions with the Essex Alcohol Recovery Community.
Chief Superintendent Anslow explains:
“Drug testing on arrest can help people out of the cycle of re-offending and into treatment. Often it can be a gateway to other support services which will help them to improve their lives by providing health, housing and other opportunities to get their lives back on track.”
We are working with treatment programmes in three different council areas:
Essex County Council works with Phoenix Futures - www.phoenix-futures.org.uk - covering detainees taken to our Basildon, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester and Harlow custody suites