Police’s pro-active help for drug-using criminals is successfully cutting crime in Suffolk

Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner.

Tim Passmore, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner. - Credit: Archant

Tackle the county’s criminal drug users and you will see crime in Suffolk reduce – that is the view of the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore.

Robin Pivett.

Robin Pivett. - Credit: Archant

A report on the Drug Interventions Programme, funded by Mr Passmore’s office, is being presented to the PCC accountability and performance panel today.

Part of that report includes information on drug tests carried out on offenders who were then given access to drug workers if they tested positive.

The idea behind the scheme, initially a pilot at Martlesham police investigation centre in 2012 and now rolled out at all PICs in Suffolk, is to try and give people the support they need to kick the habit that could be driving them to crime.

A man at the sharp end of drug testing on arrest is Robin Pivett, the control drug liaison officer for Suffolk Constabulary.

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He manages the drug testing on arrest programme and says he has seen the positive effects it has on crime in the county.

Explaining what happens, he said: “Every Suffolk detainee now is screened for drugs.

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“If they commit a trigger offence, subject to them being screened out, everyone is tested.”

The report in front of the panel today identifies burglaries and thefts as the most common crimes leading to positive tests for cocaine and heroin (the only two currently tested).

“The majority of people I see at Martlesham are because of thefts from shops,” Mr Pivett said. “A lot of them are stealing to fund their habit or stealing to live because they are living on the street or sofa surfing.”

During the period August 2012 to May 2013, there were 172 people arrested and given access to an assessment with a drug worker.

Of those, 125 of them did not commit another offence during that time, according to the DIP report.

Along with this, Mr Pivett says his first-hand experience of managing drug testing on arrest is proof of the scheme’s success.

“It is working but it is a long-term thing,” he said. “It will take a number of years to see the benefits.

“The more people we can get into recovery it goes to show the crime will reduce.

“It’s about working with more of our partners, getting people into work, getting people stable accommodation, making sure they are fed.”

For Mr Passmore, tackling drugs and the effects they have on people and communities, is high on his list of priorities.

“It’s a major part of our prevention of crime plan simply because of the long-term corrosive effects of misuse of alcohol and drugs,” he said.

“I have long believed that if you are pro-active it is a lot cheaper and more cost effective.

“From what we have seen here drug testing on arrest is a very good return on investment and money.”

Between them, the 125 people tested for drugs who did not reoffend had originally committed 79 theft or burglary offences betweem them.

It is estimated this cost Suffolk Constabulary a sum of £114,301, based on typical costs to deal with each type of offence.

He too feels the drug testing on arrest scheme has been successful in reducing crime – and is preventing more people becoming victims, especially of thefts and burglaries.

He said: “There’s nothing worse than being burgled; you feel defiled.

“People end up with all sorts of levels of distress so we have got to be right on top of this.

“We all have a responsibility for raising awareness of the problems and misery the illegal drugs business causes.

“They are sinister people and I have zero tolerance for them. The sooner they are put out of business the better.”

Ruth Croft, engagement manager at drug charity Turning Point in Suffolk, said: “It’s essential that people affected by drug and alcohol misuse can access support when they most need it.

“In Suffolk, in addition to our open-access services, Turning Point has a dedicated criminal justice team working across the county.

“We offer specialised support for those arrested for offences relating to drugs or alcohol, as well as for individuals rejoining the community after leaving prison.

“Those who wish to access support can begin treatment within 48 hours of making contact with Turning Point, and have an assigned keyworker working with them on their recovery within five working days.”

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