By Martin Walker
A groundbreaking project aimed at getting drug users into recovery and away from crime is being rolled out across the Durham Constabulary area.
After a successful pilot scheme in Peterlee and Bishop Auckland police stations, the ‘Drug Test on Arrest’ policy has now been extended to cover all of the force’s custody suites.
It means custody staff can take a mouth swab from those detained in custody for certain offences which will test for the presence of cocaine and heroin.
A positive result will mean the person is then required to attend two separate appointments with drug treatment staff.
If they decline the test, or fail to attend the appointments the courts will be informed.
Drug addiction is one of the causes of ‘volume crime’ such as thefts from vehicles, sheds, shoplifting and burglary.
Both Durham’s Chief Constable, Mike Barton, and Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, believe tackling the issue of substance misuse will bring about long-term reductions in such crime.
It should also allow the force to concentrate on the suppliers, rather than users and steer a significant number of users away from the criminal justice system and towards health-based resolutions.
Durham is leading the way nationally for the new procedure, which uses equipment provided by Draeger UK, a leading international company in the fields of medical and safety technology.
Although nationally other Drug Test on Arrest initiatives take place, the trials in Durham and Darlington are using equipment that will also show if the detained person has taken not only heroin or cocaine but other controlled substances.
This enables the police and treatment services to provide the best response and treatment to enable the user to enter recovery at an early stage.