West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has announced a set of practical proposals to tackle the cost of drugs to public services, reduce drug related crime and the number of deaths in the region, in a new report.
The Commissioner’s proposals include:
- Establishing a formal scheme to divert those suffering from addiction into treatment and away from the courts.
- Joining-up police, community safety and public health funding streams to increase efficiency and improve outcomes for those suffering from addiction.
- Prescribing heroin in a medical setting to people suffering from addiction who have not responded to other forms of treatment. This will take the market away from organised criminals and stop people stealing to fund their addiction. Work with the Home Office, who have championed the benefits of Heroin Assisted Treatment.
- Equipping and training police officers in the application of naloxone – a medication that can be used to help those overdosing.
- Establishing a Drug Early Warning Programme, to make the public, outreach workers and medical professionals aware of the impact of emerging drugs. The aim is to reduce the number of deaths.
- Introducing on-site testing in night-time economy areas to reduce the number of deaths and increase the authorities’ intelligence of drugs in circulation.
- Considering the benefits of Drug Consumption Rooms to assess if they would add value to current services in the West Midlands. Drug Consumption Rooms allow people suffering from addiction to access clean equipment, medical support and drug treatment services.
- Ensuring more money is seized from large-scale organised criminal gangs, profiting from the drugs trade. The extra money will be invested in drug treatment programmes.
The report states that it is estimated that the cost of substance use in the West Midlands is £1.4 billion each year. Half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is related to problematic drug use. Every three days in the West Midlands a person dies from a drug overdose.
There has been a consultation and a wide-ranging summit that brought politicians, health professionals and drugs experts together to find new ways of tackling the problem of drugs in the West Midlands.
Speaking about his proposals to tackle the scourge of drugs, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said:
“Despite the good work being done by many, collectively our approach to drugs is failing. Drugs are costing the West Midlands £1.4 billion each year.
“It means people are forced to live with more crime, public services are put under strain and not enough is done to reduce the suffering of those who are addicted.
“If we are to cut crime and save lives there’s one thing we can all agree on; we need fresh ideas.
“These are bold, but practical proposals that will reduce crime, the cost to the public purse and the terrible harm caused by drugs.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health, said:
“These recommendations from the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner are an important and welcome contribution to the growing momentum behind common sense drug policy reform in the UK. Health professionals, police, and the public are all agreed that a public health – rather than criminal justice – approach to drug policy is what is needed to tackle rising rates of drug harm in this country and beyond.
“We know that diverting people suffering as a result of harmful substance use away from the criminal justice system and into treatment leads to better outcomes for the individual and for society, and we know that pragmatic harm reduction interventions such as drug consumption rooms, heroin assisted treatment and drug safety testing can play an extremely helpful role in that process. It is heartening to hear more influential voices, with on the ground experience of these issues, give these measures their backing.”