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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 15:26 GMT
Tackling drug-related crime
heroin paraphernalia
Addicts' need for another fix forces them into crime
The need for drug addicts to fund their habits results in a huge number of crimes being committed.

A report by the Audit Commission suggests that half of all crime in England and Wales is drug related.

Every year drug users raise half a billion pounds through crime to fund their addictions.

Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission, told the BBC: "The abuser's need to steal to fund their habit is so great that they steal and steal and steal and they destroy themselves and they play a part in destroying the community around them."

A reformed drug addict, known only as Ray, said he had had no alternative to crime to raise the necessary money to fund his addiction over 20 years.

They steal and steal and steal and they destroy themselves and play a part in destroying the community around them

Andrew Foster
Audit Commission
"Crime was the only way to finance it," he said.

"There was no way I was going to be able, at the time, to pay to finance it."

The Audit Commission's report says that services for drug users in Britain are under-funded and fragmented with long waiting lists.

But the police and the government realise that tackling the user's addiction will reap benefits in the fight against crime.

DC Bob Skerry, a drugs intelligence officer with Hampshire Police, told the BBC: "If we assist those that are addicts by giving them the correct treatment and putting money in from the government, I'm almost certain it would reduce the crime figures."

Referral scheme

Home Office research suggests that for every pound spent on treating drug users, three pounds would be saved on dealing with the after-effects of dealing with crime.

Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth said one of the key objectives of the government's drug strategy was to protect communities from drug-related crime.

If we assist addicts I'm certain it would reduce crime

DC Bob Skerry
Hampshire Police

"By identifying problematic drug users early in their drug-using career and referring them into treatment we can help them to deal with their problem at the earliest opportunity."

The government introduced a voluntary referral scheme in 2001 for people when they are arrested.

Mr Ainsworth said it confirmed the benefit of targeting problematic drug users who re-offend.

"Many of these people, who have previously not received any help to overcome their addiction, are now being referred into treatment," he said.

"We are also seeing more problematic drug users actively engaging in their treatment programmes."

See also:

12 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Drugs cost society 18.8bn
14 Aug 00 | UK
Drug and crime link grows
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