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Essex: Pilot scheme testing arrested suspects for Class A drugs to move county-wide after Home Office provides £718k funding

PUBLISHED: 13:04 06 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:04 06 August 2014

Arrested suspects will be tested for Class A drugs and offered treatment if found to be positive

Arrested suspects will be tested for Class A drugs and offered treatment if found to be positive

Suspected criminals in Essex will be tested for Class A drugs upon arrest after nearly three-quarters of a million pounds of funding was secured by the county’s police force to extend a pilot scheme aimed at cutting re-offending rates.

The Home Office Police Innovation Fund will enable Essex Police to extend the Drug Testing on Arrest programme beyond Chelmsford, where it was first implemented, across the rest of the county.

Under the scheme, arrested suspects who test positive for drugs will be offered treatment for substance misuse aimed to steer them away from crime.

Nick Alison, Essex’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who provided £16,000 of funding for the pilot scheme, said Class A drug users commit a “significant proportion” of crimes such as burglaries, shoplifting and robberies.

“The evidence shows that successful treatment for drug misuse will significantly reduce reoffending and keep our communities safer,” he added.

“I’m delighted that we’ve received Home Office Police Innovation funding of £718,000 to expand this project over the next two years.”

The original pilot, which was also supported by the Essex Drug and Alcohol Action Team and Safer Essex, the Westminster Drug Project has so far referred 53 individuals for treatment, and 37 have successfully engaged with the programme.

The newly rolled out programme will also be evaluated for effectiveness by the University of Essex School of Health and Human Science.

Essex county councillor Ann Naylor, who is responsible for public health, said: “This funding is great news and enables us to develop a comprehensive pilot which we believe will result in safer communities.

“The aim of the Drug Testing On Arrest programme is to reduce reoffending by ensuring that adult offenders affected by drug misuse are offered and receive the appropriate support and interventions that benefit them, such as drug recovery and behavioural change programmes.

“They can also receive support from mental and general healthcare professionals where appropriate.”

According to National Treatment Agency research, a heroin or crack cocaine user costs society an average of £26,074 per year. Home Office research has found that the overall volume of offending of over 7,700 individuals nationally was 26% lower following identification through a positive drug test in police custody.

Around half of the individuals who tested positive for Class A drug use showed a significant decline in offending of almost 80% in the following six months.

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