A POLICE supremo believes the decriminalisation of hard drugs is the way forward in smashing organised crime.
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Ron Hogg is calling for drug addicts to be treated as victims, not offenders, and wants them to be given heroin to inject under close medical supervision, following the success of trials in places including Darlington.
He wants to see “controlled drug rooms”, where addicts could inject substances in a restricted environment, ultimately leading to drugs being taken off the streets, profits removed from criminals and reduced crime.
Mr Hogg says organised crime controls the illegal drug supply market and the majority of cash being made by organised criminals is from drugs.
“It is with this in mind that we must consider different approaches to stemming the opportunities available to the suppliers and treating the addict as a victim and not a criminal,” he said.
Mr Hogg insisted: “We are not going soft on drugs, we believe we are going sensible.”
The Labour PCC added: “Let’s be quite clear about this, we are not condoning and we don’t want people to be maintained on drugs.
“We want people to be accessing drugs in these rooms under a safe environment so they are not committing crime to buy drugs in the first instance and so that the health consequences through the individuals and street trade is removed.
“It’s about looking at the problem as a health and community safety problem, many of these addicts have adverse outcomes such as Aids, hepatitis C, overdoses and death.”
He added that the move could lead to the removal of needles and syringes from the streets, making communities safer.
In County Durham, there are around 1,700 people in drug treatment for addiction to heroin and other opium-based drugs.
Mr Hogg, who was a police officer for 30 years, working with the Cleveland and Durham forces, added: “I have learned that the addict is a victim, with the drug pushers and suppliers the real offenders.”
Mr Hogg’s calls echo comments made by Durham Police’s Chief Constable Mike Barton last month.