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Drugs diversion project in Northants aims to tackle local issues

The pilot project designed to help and support Kettering’s most vulnerable has made "real progress" since it was launched last year according to the force.

Set up in July 2020 and funded by the Home Offfice #Citadel is designed to tackle drug addiction by supporting people with tailored programmes to divert them away from crime.

Before the pilot Northamptonshire Police and the local authority identified the number of drug deaths as a growing issue, as well as local problems caused by crack and heroin users, with used needles being deposited in the street and people “wandering around like zombies” in particular areas of Kettering.

Now, if somebody is found in possession of drugs alternative ways of dealing with them are looked at, including putting them on a drugs awareness programme. 

Some of the other support available includes helping with safe accommodation, training opportunities, employment opportunities, therapeutic opportunities and family crisis work.

Detective Inspector Seb Greshner, who leads the project, said: “This project is different because it deals with drugs issues in a unique way. It makes no sense to criminalise people who are having issues as this will only impact adversely on, for example, employability. It would also most likely exacerbate mental health issues. This is likely to plunge individuals even further into crisis and make them further reliable on drugs.”

So far, 44 adults are receiving bespoke intervention and five have responded so well that the risks to them and others have been reduced and the support they’ve been receiving can be scaled down. Another five will now be part of a longer and more intensive programme throughout the #Citadel partnerships.

Detective Chief Inspector Gan Thayanithy is the local policing lead for the north of the county.

He referred to Dame Carol Black’s Review of drugs: phase one report in 2019 which looks at the drug situation in the UK and the best way to tackle it. 

DCI Thayanithy said: “It is well recognised there needs to be a shared and proactive approach to help those who are addicted to drugs and that the approach needs to be a health approach rather than a criminal justice one.”

He said there are people in the second generation of families affected by or addicted to crack and heroin, and it was therefore important to also do youth outreach in this area. 

Detective Chief Inspector Gan Thayanithy

“One of my key aims as the chief inspector for North Northamptonshire is to make it easier for young people to grow up, flourish and be successful.

“So youth outreach has been a huge part of the project. And I'm really, really grateful to the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, they've funded and provided youth outreach workers,” DCI Thayanithy told Police Oracle. 

Earlier this year, members of the public were asked to comment on the project and give feedback about what they felt were the key issues the town faced in relation to drug addiction. Of 210 people surveyed, nearly half cited drug-related crime as the biggest cause of harm to the Kettering community.

“The main line that we went down with members of the public was feeling safe,” he said.

“Having your children grow up safely, not seeing needles on the floor, not witnessing drug deals, or witnessing people taking drugs. So it was very much along the lines of how does it feel to live in the areas that are affected by these problems and holding up this as a potential solution to that problem, which hasn't been tried before.”

He went on to say: “We can’t forget that behind all of this is crime - the supply of drugs, the violence in between the groups, the moving of the drugs market, from heroin and cocaine from the traditional supply to county lines models.

“With that sort of level of violence, we have to look at the impact on that as well. So the idea is as well as the enforcement activity of other projects, not in the #Citadel area, where actually you might have a county line that is feeding the demand of an area of a town where there is high addiction problems, if we can address that demand then the supply will naturally go down.”

They are monitoring how successful people are attending the programmes, how often they're seeing people and how many referrals they're doing to other agencies, They are also looking at how many places are taken up in the funded educational pathways or funded employment pathways.

None of it is around measuring arrests or convictions. “It's all about a measure of how much support people are being given with a view to helping them to help themselves,” said DCI Thayanithy.

“Overwhelmingly, people have been really supportive of it, because they recognise that that drug addiction is a problem in that area.”

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