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BREAKING THE LINK BETWEEN DRUGS AND CRIME

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A further expansion of the pilot drug-testing scheme designed to ...
A further expansion of the pilot drug-testing scheme designed to

break the link between drugs and crime has announced by home

office drugs minister Bob Ainsworth.

The compulsory drug-testing scheme, currently running in Hackney,

Nottingham and Staffordshire, is being extended to six further areas:

Bedford in Bedfordshire

Blackpool in Lancashire

Doncaster in South Yorkshire

Torquay in Devon and Cornwall

Wirral in Merseyside

Wrexham and Mold in North Wales

The tests, for offenders charged with drug-related or theft offences,

will ensure that problematic drug users are identified early and

offered appropriate treatment.

Announcing the new pilots at the Royal College of General

Practitioners' national conference yesterday, Mr Ainsworth said:

'Overall crime is falling but Class A drug misuse continues to fuel a

significant amount of property crime. We have to break this vicious

cycle between drug dependency and crime.

'The drug testing schemes will identify problematic drug misusers

early and help them into treatment. In this way the user will benefit

from a real chance to re-build their lives, the community will

benefit from a reduction in drug-related crime and the dealers will

have one less customer.

'We have already seen how mandatory drug testing in prisons has

helped to reduce the number of positive drug tests, down from 24.4%

in 1996/97 to 12.4% in 2000/01.'

Under the drug testing initiative offenders will have to provide

saliva samples. Those who test positive will be offered the

opportunity to enter treatment, and the test results will be used by

courts to assist with bail decisions and whether treatment should be

part of an offenders' community sentence.

Drug testing will not take place until a person is charged and will

only be limited to identifying heroin and crack/cocaine use. Home

Office research has shown that there is clear evidence that Class A

drugs - particularly heroin and cocaine - are driving a large amount

of crime.

Interventions on behalf of the problem drug user can have a positive

effect in reducing drug-related crime. An evaluation of the pilot

arrest referral schemes found that:

- one in two offenders were no longer using illegal opiates or

stimulants six to eight months after referral; and

- average drug expenditure fell from£400 per week to£70 per week,

with corresponding reductions in crime to help finance drug misuse.

Notes

1. Home Office research has shown that there is clear evidence that

Class A drugs - particularly heroin and cocaine - are driving a

significant amount of property crime. The developmental stage of the

New English and Welsh Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Programme

(NEW-ADAM) found:

- 69 per cent of arrestees tested positive for an illegal drug, with

nearly one in three testing positive for heroin and 20 per cent

testing positive for cocaine;

- 42 per cent of those who reported drug use and committing

acquisitive crime in the last year said their drug taking was

connected to their offending, with nearly half of these reporting

income from property crime and a fifth from drug dealing; and

- Arrestees using both heroin and also cocaine or crack represented

one quarter of all arrestees but were responsible for more than

half of the illegal income reported. This group reported an average

annual illegal income of nearly£13,000 a year.

2. It will be an offence to refuse to provide a sample, punishable by

up to three months in prison or a fine of up to£2,500 or a

combination of both.

3. The Forensic Science Service evaluated the viability of using oral

fluid technology as an alternative to testing devices using urine

samples. Results showed that:

- Oral fluid technology was an effective and accurate alternative to

urine for drug screening for heroin and crack/cocaine;

- The use of oral fluids is less invasive and does not compromise

privacy;

- Oral fluid testing reduces health and safety risks for staff

carrying out the test;

- Provides the opportunity to have an immediate drug test result, in

a face to face situation;

- The new technology minimises manpower requirements and additional

time in custody for the arrestee;

- Makes adulteration of the sample more difficult than it is for

urine testing;

- Oral fluids have the potential to replace urine testing in the

future.

5. Oral fluid testing will be by means of a swab, which is inserted

into the mouth to absorb a certain amount of oral fluid. The sample

can be forwarded to a lab for screening or tested in-situ. A

sufficient amount needs to be collected to allow for a secondary

laboratory confirmatory test. The kit tests for heroin, crack and

cocaine in a single application. The results are read and stored

electronically.

6. The first interim evaluation report, summarising the emerging

learning from the implementation of drug testing in Hackney,

Staffordshire and Nottingham, will be published in late May 2002.

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