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1 October 2014, 12:01 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
A new project aimed at getting drug users into recovery and away from crime is being rolled out across County Durham.
It was piloted in Peterlee and Bishop Auckland police stations and will now cover the rest of the custody suits in the Durham Police area.
The 'Drug Test on Arrest' policy 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.
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.
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.
Chief Constable Mike Barton said:
"In our force area we have around 1,750 individuals currently in treatment for heroin and cocaine abuse. The drug intervention and treatment teams do a fantastic job in steering these people into the right services and ultimately recovery, but we can do so much more if we identify addicts at the point we first come into contact with them.
It has long been recognised that drug users commit crime to feed their habits. The Drug Test on Arrest programme should bring about swifter access to treatment, will significantly reduce offending and help keep our communities safer."
In the first full week of the programme 40 tests were carried out with a number of positive results.
Those who tested positive were found to be using not only the class A drugs of heroin and cocaine but also cannabis and in several cases other substances such as benzodiazepines and amphetamines.
The treatment and recovery services for the scheme are provided by two specialist agencies, 'Addaction' and the North East Council on Addictions (NECA).