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Addiction in Focus: Tackling drugs in Dorset

This week the APCC published their ‘Addiction in Focus’ report which shares how Police and Crime Commissioners across the country are taking new approaches to tackle the issue of drugs and contributing to the government's Harm to Hope strategy.

The issue of drugs is much bigger than simply the taking of illegal substances. Drugs are the driving force behind a lot of crimes, with half of all homicides and thefts believed to be linked to drugs. Drugs can also, often be the root cause of anti-social behaviour; an issue I know many Dorset residents are concerned about. This is why it is vitally important that the right steps are taken to tackle the issue, including taking robust action to cut supply, treating addiction and changing attitudes towards drugs.

In Dorset, we have both Operation Viper and Operation Scorpion working together to take robust action to cut supply lines and send a clear message that Dorset is no place for drugs. But this is only part of the solution, to truly combat the issue of drugs, we also need effective treatment and rehabilitation, and impactful education.

I am honoured to be the Senior Responsible Officer (SRO) for the Dorset Local Drug Strategy Partnerships. The partnership brings together treatment, prevention, and enforcement to drive change from every level of dealing with substance misuse. As SRO it is my responsibility to make certain that all the correct partners are involved in the collaboration, it is vital that we have everyone engaged and working together if we are going to really drive change. 

I believe education and diversion are key to keeping our young people away from illegal gateway drugs. Too often, we see celebrities openly discussing their use of dangerous substances, glamorising drug use and leading young people to believe illegal gateway drugs are ‘harmless fun’.

One innovative approach we have taken in Dorset to change these attitudes and educate young people has been to put guidance and procedures into place that ensure that substance misuse treatments are offered at every stage of dealing with criminal offences by young people. There are a number of options for responding to criminal offences by young people, known as the five ‘levels’ of interventions. At each level, the local substance misuse service is offered to the young person, and the whole family, if there is a need.

Since the guidance and procedures were put in place in 2021 the number of youth justice intervention cases, where the young person is worked with by the substance misuse services, has increased from 33 to 135 (up to October 2022). By ensuring that support and treatment are frequently offered, we can really get the message across and start to divert the course of a young person who may be heading down the wrong path in life.

Read the full ‘Addiction in Focus’ report here.


David Sidwick

Police and Crime Commissioner

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