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Durham launch proactive alcohol and drug abuse campaign

“Ahead of the Arrest” is designed to see officers step in in a bid to prevent future criminal activity.

The force has teamed up with charity Humankind for a pilot that will last six months. It will see neighbourhood officers step in with people who have come to the attention of the police because of drug and alcohol abuse. 

Of the 13 people engaged through the scheme so far, five have agreed to work with Humankind to address their misuse. 

Sergeant Andrew Boyd, who came up with the scheme, said: “We know that misuse is a major factor for many people who go on to commit crime.

“By working with the experts at Humankind, we can give the right support and help people and their families before they get to the point where we are having to arrest them after they commit crimes directly related to their misuse.”

As part of the scheme, Sgt Boyd will look on a weekly basis at safeguarding reports and pull out people who are potentially vulnerable. Neighbourhood officers will then go out on Fridays accompanied by a representative from Humankind. It is designed for people who have not not been arrested or in custody, so will not have had the opportunity to be signposted to support services through liaison and diversion schemes. 

Sgt Boyd explained that one of the cases they have come across was a man who had collapsed outside and who was clearly suffering from alcoholism. After taking him to hospital, they revisited him and explained how they could help. 

“He teared up saying he was so pleased we had stepped in. He is now engaging with several different services and getting that vital support,” he said. 

“This gentleman is just one of the cases where we have been able to step in and break that cycle of behaviour which not only helps that individual but the whole community.” 

Asked whether the scheme blurs the line between the role of the police and that of other services Sgt Boyd told Police Oracle: “Ultimately, all services have got a responsibility with regards to vulnerability in the community. There are some blurred lines, but certainly myself as a neighbourhood sergeant, I’ve got to look at where the vulnerability is and put things in place to try and improve the situations that some people put themselves in. 

“[Neighbourhood teams] we’re a jack-of-all trades. There is an argument for [other provisions] as we’re seeing reductions in youth funding so that has an impact on the police because the kids haven’t got anywhere to go. We’ve had reductions in social services [...] ultimately my job here as a neighbourhood sergeant is to work with all those partner agencies to put things in place to improve the lives of the people in the community I police. 

“It’s wrong to say that one agency is responsible for one thing and another for another, we’ve all got to pitch in.” 

Other forces have launched similar initiatives. Last December, Thames Valley launched a drug diversion programme in partnership with substance abuse charity Druglink. They are working with the charity to deal with low-level offences with out-of-court disposals. 

Sgt Boyd added: “As the police, we’ve learnt over the years that by arresting people, putting them before court and sending them to prison doesn’t solve the problem, sometimes it only means they spend time with someone with more skills than them and they come out and they’re reoffending. 

“This is problem solving at it’s best, we’ve got to look af different ways other than the court system to not only reduce re-offending but reduce vulnerability as well.” 

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