Norfolk offenders to be drug tested on arrest

Selected offenders in Norfolk are to be drug tested in custody to identify potential addicts in a bid to reduce levels of acquisitive crime.

Jan 22, 2020
By Tony Thompson
Chief Inspector Lou Provart

A pilot programme involving targeted drug testing on arrest began at the Great Yarmouth Police Investigation Centre last November and is now being rolled out across the rest of the county.

The initiative is a collaboration between Norfolk Constabulary and Public Health Norfolk’s drug and alcohol support service Change Grow Live and aims to provide a tailored solution for those adults who misuse Class A crack cocaine and heroin and commit crime to fund their addiction.

Anyone arrested for offences that research has shown to be linked with the use of Class A crack cocaine and heroin, such as theft, burglary and handling stolen goods, will be tested for drugs.

Offenders accused of these ‘trigger’ offences can be compelled to provide a mouth swab test by an officer of at least inspector rank if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the misuse of crack cocaine and heroin has caused or contributed to an offence.

The result of the initial test is available within three minutes. Where the test is positive, the detainee will be legally required to attend an assessment with a Change Grow Live counsellor, who will then work with them to seek treatment and support. Failure to take the drug test without good cause, or failure to attend the required assessment, will be a criminal offence.

Chief Inspector Lou Provart said: “Norfolk Constabulary has been committed to targeting the Class A drug supply market over the past three years under Operation Gravity, however, in order to break the cycle of drug misuse and offending behaviour we need to target the demand.

“By identifying drug users and moving them into appropriate treatment we will not only steer them away from a dangerous lifestyle, but we will hopefully see a reduction in crime, make it more difficult for drug dealers trying to operate in Norfolk and effectively remove a huge strain from police and public health resources.”

Ed Shorter, director at Change Grow Live, added: “With the right interventions and support, we know that people can change harmful and destructive patterns of behaviour associated with drug misuse. Working together with Norfolk Constabulary, this collaboration has been designed to help people across Norfolk address the root causes of their offending behaviour and live better lives. This in turn will have a significant positive impact on the wider Norfolk community’.

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner Lorne Green said: “Hopefully the introduction of such a scheme will help lead to a reduction in drug-related crime in the county while offering vulnerable members of society the support they need to break the vicious cycle they find themselves in.

“Drug users can become entrenched in offending behaviour, impacting on their families and the wider community, and it is crucial they are able to access help to address the causes and consequences of what they are doing.

“I will monitor the success of the programme with interest. If drug users choose to truly engage with the project, they could truly be helped to turn their lives around.”

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