Heroin should be prescribed to drug addicts to curb crime, the deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire has said at a drugs conference.
Howard Roberts said prescribing heroin to criminals would cut crime
Howard Roberts told an Association of Chief Police Officers' conference in Manchester the idea should be assessed.
He said the treatment would cost £12,000 a year per addict but added that drug users steal property valued at an average of £45,000 a year.
The idea is being piloted in London, the South East and North of England.
"At the moment across the country we see levels of burglary, robbery and murder being committed by drug-fuelled addicts who are doing so in order to get the money to buy the drugs," Mr Roberts told the conference.
"One of the things I have found is that as a treatment it has been highly effective in actually helping to reduce crime.
"We've seen good levels of falls in drug-related acquisitive crime.
"However, there is still a considerable problem and what I am suggesting is that we need to explore, as part of a treatment programme, the prescribing of heroin to addicts in order to take them out of the illegal market."
He added: "Of course, getting people off drugs altogether must be the objective.
"But I do believe that we have lived with the terrible consequences of relatively uncontained addiction for far too long.
"If we are to make a greater impact we need to fundamentally address the method of operation of the criminal market-place for heroin."
The manager of a Nottinghamshire-based support service for families of drug users supported the police chief's call.
"I'm delighted that police are taking drug treatment options more seriously and have been doing so over the last few years," said Nina Dauban, manager of Mansfield-based Hetty's.
"In the past police have been forced to go down the enforcement and criminal justice route that doesn't always solve the problem.
"There is a lot of criminality around drugs, reducing the level of criminality is really important in improving treatment for addicts.
"All tribute to him saying this. It is typical of Nottinghamshire Police not to be frightened to speak about their convictions.
"We're not here to win a popularity contest - we're out to improve services for drug users."
Martin Barnes, chief executive of drugs charity DrugScope, said: "There is compelling evidence that heroin prescribing, although more expensive than some forms of drug treatment, is cost-effective in reducing drug-related crime and other costs to communities."
Nicola Metrebian, from the charity Action on Addiction, said they were doing research which would "compare the effectiveness of injectable methadone and injectable heroin to oral methadone" for a group of hard to treat heroin users.
In the Department of Health pilots, 300 to 400 drug users receive heroin for their addiction.
Similar schemes in Holland and Switzerland reported some users turning away from crime.