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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Drug treatment for street criminals
The scheme will operate in 10 crime 'hot-spots'
Street crime offenders with drug problems are to be given medical help to beat their addiction, under government plans.

Health Minister Hazel Blears has announced that criminals with a history of drug use will be referred to treatment centres within 24 hours of being arrested.

The move is part of the government's street crime strategy, which is operating in 10 areas of England.

If this is to work the initiative must be supported by significant new resources

DrugScope spokesman
Ms Blears said the policy would help to break the link between drugs and crime.

The arrangements will apply to offenders charged with drug-fuelled street robbery, bag snatches and car jacking.

It will be available within 24 hours of street offenders being released into communities following their arrest or release from custody.

Hot spot areas

The policy will operate in:

  • Avon and Somerset
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire
  • London,
  • Merseyside,
  • Nottinghamshire,
  • Thames Valley,
  • West Midlands
  • West Yorkshire
  • South Yorkshire

    "Street crime cannot be tackled by the police and criminal justice agencies alone," Ms Blears said.

    "These addicts are contributing to a climate of fear and suspicion in our communities. Ensuring that they have treatment should help reduce their re-offending - making our streets safer - as well as giving them a chance to re-build their lives.

    "Research shows that when drug users get treatment for their addictions offending reduces by over 90%."

    The scheme will be overseen by the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse.

    Its chief executive Paul Hayes said: "Rapid access to appropriate treatment is particularly important for the offenders targeted by the government's fast-track initiative as these offences cause the public most alarm.

    "The initiative is part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce street crime and will fill a potential gap in the system by focusing on this particular group."

    Money needed

    The charity DrugScope welcomed the move. However, it criticised the lack of new money to fund the scheme.

    A spokesman said: "Effective and immediate treatment is the best way of addressing drug driven crime.

    "We are however seriously concerned that without new money, it will be difficult for treatment services to respond to the demand in such a small period of time.

    "There is also a serious worry that there will be significant queue jumping, where those fresh from police stations will get seen within 24 hours, whereas others may have to wait up to five months to get help.

    "Are we really telling people with drug problems that to get help they first have to commit a crime?"

    He added: "If this is to work the initiative must be supported by significant new resources at the forthcoming spending review ."

  • See also:

    24 Apr 02 | England
    Drugs fuel soaring street crime
    24 Apr 02 | UK Politics
    Blair sets street crime deadline
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