Thursday, May 23, 2024

Essex Police to introduce drugs tests on arrest plan

ADULTS arrested in Essex will be tested for cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin use if officers believe Class A drugs have contributed to the crime.

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.

“So we will be testing anyone who is arrested and brought into custody and whose use of Class A drugs is suspected by our officers to have contributed to the crime they are suspected of committing.”

The use of saliva tests to detect cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin starts today, Saturday 1 April, in Essex Police custody suites. Tests will also be 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.

“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,” says Chief Superintendent Anslow.

“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,” he says. “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.”

From today, Saturday 1 April, anyone over the age of 18 arrested and taken to an Essex Police custody suite will be asked to take a saliva test to detect whether Class A drugs – heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine – are in their system if an officer suspects Class A drugs use may have caused or contributed to the offence they have been arrested for.

Detainees will automatically be asked to take a test if they are arrested for a ‘trigger offence’, which include acquisitive crimes, such as theft, vehicle-taking, robbery, burglary or handling stolen goods; and production, possession or possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. 

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.

LINKS: https://www.phoenix-futures.org.uk 

https://www.forwardtrust.org.uk/service/stars-southend-treatment-and-recovery-service

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.

Ben Attridge is our drug test on arrest (DTOA) co-ordinator who will be following up cases where someone does not attend a referral appointment.

He says: “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.”

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.

Have you been affected by this story?

If you are affected by anything mentioned in this story, help is available.

If you have been a victim of sexual violence or abuse and need help and support, please contact Synergy Essex on 0300 003 7777 or visit www.synergyessex.org.uk.

In an emergency, always dial 999.

If you need to #Reflect and work towards breaking the cycle of your abusive behaviour, call The Change Project on 0845 3 727 701 or visit www.thechange-project.org.

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