PCC calls for more to be done to tackle drug deaths

The West Midlands police and crime commissioner (PCC) Simon Foster has called for more to be done to tackle drug deaths following the publication of the Office for National Statistics data on drug-related deaths.

Aug 4, 2021
By Tony Thompson
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The statistics show that in England and Wales there were 4,561 drug-related deaths in that period, rising from 4,393 in 2019. There were 215 drug-related deaths in the West Midlands in the year ending March 2020 rising from 185 in 2019 .

Mr Foster said: “These statistics are deeply saddening. Every person who loses their life to drugs is someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, partner, brother or sister – it is tragic and nobody should have to suffer that. Clearly this new data shows that more needs to be done, locally and nationally to help people break the cycle of addiction and get their lives back.

“Drugs cost the West Midlands £1.4 billion each year and half of all burglary, robbery, shoplifting and thefts are committed by someone looking to fund their drug addiction. The current approach we have in this country to drugs isn’t working.

“The Government have a major role to play in changing the way drug policy is seen in the UK. It should act with haste to implement the recommendations of Dame Carol Black’s review into drug prevention, treatment and recovery and especially the reference to the need for a long term funding approach from government.

“I am committed to continuing to work in the West Midlands to help people suffering with substance misuse problems get the support and help they need. I am proud of the schemes we are leading on to support people. I’ve just expanded the Offender to Rehab programme which is helping people turn their lives around as well as leading to huge reductions in the cost of shoplifting to businesses and taking money away from drug gangs.

“The work we are doing in the West Midlands with the Cranstoun Arrest Referral Service and DIVERT will help to engage and support those with drug addiction as well as helping to stop lower level drug offenders get caught in the cycle of crime, but more needs to be done.”

Association of Police and Crime Commissioners joint leads on alcohol and substance misuse, Joy Allen and David Sidwick, said: “We are saddened and disappointed to see such a significant rise in drug-related deaths in England and Wales.

“Drug addiction not only destroys the lives of the user, but also has wider and equally devasting impact on families and communities. We know that some people with drug and alcohol problems are responsible for high volumes of crime, particularly acquisitive offending, and that treatment reduces offending, as well as addressing health and social issues and reducing drug-related deaths.

“PCCs are committed to tackling drug misuse which includes delivering high-quality treatment and recovery services for those with addiction problems to improve rates of recovery, prevent premature death and reduce the demand for drugs, as well as overseeing the implementation of Dame Carol Black’s recommendations.

“PCCs are also working closely with their police forces and national organisations, including charities, to help disrupt the organised crime groups responsible for supplying drugs and all of the layers of criminality they bring with it – in particular, the exploitation of young people involved in County Lines.

“We will continue to work closely with councils and partners to provide treatment and support services as it is only by working together to tackle the underlying causes that we can prevent vulnerable people from dying.”

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