Taking action in the fight against drugs - PCC Barry Coppinger
As official figures reveal how drugs deaths have soared to record levels, I want to outline what work is taking place across Hartlepool - and beyond – to tackle the issue.
Drug misuse is a scourge across the UK which affects us all.
It kills and destroys the lives of users and causes grief and misery to family and friends.
The associated crime and antisocial behaviour impacts deeply on local businesses and residents and drains the resources of health, police and other public services.
Figures just released by the Office for National Statistics reveal 2018 saw nearly 3,000 deaths from drugs misuse in England and Wales, a rise of 17%. At this rate such deaths will soon be double those of road fatalities.
Of particular concern is that the North-East has the highest death rate in the country – with Hartlepool having one of the top 10 highest rates of deaths nationwide.
The town’s Community Safety Team has developed multi-agency solutions to tackle drug-related activity across Hartlepool.
Since December 2018, the team has executed 30 drug raids across the town, resulting in the arrest of more than 30 people in relation to drugs and other activities.
Following these raids, officers have seized thousands of pounds of drugs and large amounts of cash involved in money laundering.
Thanks to intelligence from the community, the team has had success in securing notices to close problem premises, which have plagued communities with drug-related activity and antisocial behaviour. Thirteen of these properties have been closed since December.
Enforcement action is important to communities, who want to be able to travel around their neighbourhoods safely and confidently. However, it’s important we couple this action with ways of diverting people from drugs and how we provide effective treatment for those already hooked.
This autumn an innovative Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) pilot scheme, overseen and part-funded by my office, will commence in Middlesbrough. This treatment and recovery programme will see those struggling most with heroin use treated as patients.
Treatment will see each patient assessed and agree to visit a clinic twice a day where prescribed medical heroin is administered in a safe environment.
Once the dependency on street heroin is removed, there is an opportunity for recovery; a chance for the patient to engage with other agencies including housing, public health, training and employment to get their lives back on track.
The HAT scheme has the backing of public health and criminal justice agencies and follows meticulous research by drug treatment experts. Should it prove to be a success, I’m confident that an area like Hartlepool - with similarly high levels of drug-related deaths – would also benefit from such a scheme.