Despite the good work being done by many, collectively, drug policy is failing. This failure means the public put up with more crime and public services left under strain. What’s more, not enough is done to reduce the harm to those suffering from addiction. Drug related deaths are at an all-time high.
Half of all burglary, theft, shoplifting and robbery is committed by people who use heroin or cocaine regularly. This represents one in five crimes reported to West Midlands Police and tens of thousands of victims. Every three days in the West Midlands somebody dies from drug poisoning, with a death every four hours in England.
On 15th December 2017 the Police and Crime Commissioner held the West Midlands Drug Policy Summit. It was an opportunity for sensible and mature discussion with organisations involved in drug policy from across the region attending. They were given the opportunity to share their views and shape the agenda through a consultation, which can be viewed in full here.
In response to the views expressed at the summit, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner has announced how he would like to tackle the problem of drugs. You can read the full report here, a summary of the main proposals are below.
The Commissioner’s proposals include:
- Establishing a formal scheme to divert those suffering from addiction into treatment and away from the courts.
- Joining-up police, community safety and public health funding streams to increase efficiency and improve outcomes for those suffering from addiction.
- Prescribing heroin in a medical setting to people suffering from addiction who have not responded to other forms of treatment. This will take the market away from organised criminals and stop people stealing to fund their addiction. Work with the Home Office, who have championed the benefits of Heroin Assisted Treatment.
- Equipping and training police officers in the application of naloxone – a medication that can be used to help those overdosing.
- Establishing a Drug Early Warning Programme, to make the public, outreach workers and medical professionals aware of the impact of emerging drugs. The aim is to reduce the number of deaths.
- Introducing on-site testing in night-time economy areas to reduce the number of deaths and increase the authorities’ intelligence of drugs in circulation.
- Considering the benefits of Drug Consumption Rooms to assess if they would add value to current services in the West Midlands. Drug Consumption Rooms allow people suffering from addiction to access clean equipment, medical support and drug treatment services.
- Ensuring more money is seized from large-scale organised criminal gangs, profiting from the misery of the drugs trade. The extra money will be invested in drug treatment programmes.
Since the original report, significant progress has been made in delivering on these recommendations.
Amongst other things, having completed a full review into the previous models, a new arrest referral service was commissioned by the PCC across the whole West Midlands police force area with positive outcomes already being delivered, WMP became the first police force in the country where officers were trained with and now carry Naloxone, a drug testing service was piloted at MADE festival 2018, a drugs early warning system has been established, a pre-arrest drug diversion scheme has been commissioned after a gap in current service provision was acknowledged and a team of financial investigators have been established in the Economic Crime Unit, taking money from organised criminals to fund further drugs services.
On Friday 13th March 2020, the PCC held a ‘Drug Summit: Two Years On’. This event allowed the OPCC and partners to reflect on successes so far and set out the next steps that should follow the summit. It also allowed Ernie Hendricks to present his paper on Drug Consumption Rooms, which meant another of the PCC’s recommendations was achieved.
West Midlands Drug Policy Recommendations
Out of Harm’s Way – Drug Consumption Rooms, Benefits and Challenges
The Commissioner is keen to see as many of these delivered before the end of his term in May 2021.