Fact find­ing mis­sion for po­lice chief

Coventry Telegraph - - NEWS - By TOM DARE & JAMES RODGER David Jamieson in Switzer­land

WEST Mid­lands’ top po­lice of­fi­cial be­lieves the re­gion could learn a lot about dru­gre­lated crime from the Swiss ap­proach, fol­low­ing a visit to the coun­try.

Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner (PCC) David Jamieson trav­elled to Switzer­land last week on a fact-find­ing mis­sion as part of his pledge to tackle drug ad­dic­tion in the West Mid­lands.

Back in Fe­bru­ary, the PCC out­lined a se­ries of trans­for­ma­tive poli­cies which he felt could help solve the re­gion’s drug prob­lem.

Drugs in the West Mid­lands cost pub­lic ser­vices £1.4 bil­lion a year, as well as caus­ing half of all ac­quis­i­tive crime.

Sev­eral of Mr Jamieson’s poli­cies have al­ready been tri­alled in Switzer­land, which had a sim­i­lar drug prob­lem in the late 80s and early 90s to the one the West Mid­lands has now.

These poli­cies in­clude heroin as­sisted treat­ment rooms, where users could be pre­scribed a small dose of safe heroin by a doc­tor, as well as a drug-test­ing pro­gramme that al­lowed for the safe test­ing of users’ drugs.

Since in­tro­duc­ing its wide-rang­ing pro­gramme of re­forms, a whole host of ben­e­fits have been seen in Swiss so­ci­ety.

The num­ber of deaths by over­dose has more than halved, while more than half of ad­dicts given heroin by the state were off of the drug within three years.

As of 2016, the num­ber of drug-re­lated deaths per one mil­lion res­i­dents in Switzer­land was just a third of the fig­ure for the West Mid­lands.

The in­tro­duc­tion of drug con­sump­tion rooms, where users can ac­cess clean equip­ment and med­i­cal ad­vice, has also seen the for­mer HIV cap­i­tal of Europe re­duce its in­fec­tion rate by 65 per cent.

While this is not a con­crete pol­icy of the PCC at the mo­ment, he has out­lined plans to ex­plore it in more depth.

Dur­ing his visit Mr Jamieson met Ruth Drei­fuss, the for­mer Pres­i­dent of Switzer­land who was re­spon­si­ble for in­tro­duc­ing sev­eral of the drug re­forms that helped trans­form Swiss so­ci­ety.

He also vis­ited Champs Bal­lon Prison, Heroin As­sisted Treat­ment and Drug Con­sump­tion Cen­tres in Geneva, as well Safety Test­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Bern.

He said that his trip has let him see the real-life ben­e­fits of some of the poli­cies he is propos­ing.

“I wanted to see what is work­ing and what isn’t,” he said.

“I met with the for­mer Pres­i­dent of Switzer­land, who drove through many of her coun­try’s re­forms. She gave me prac­ti­cal ad­vice on how they have re­duced crime, re­duced the num­ber of deaths and, in do­ing so, saved the tax­pay­ers money.

“De­spite the good work be­ing done by many, col­lec­tively our ap­proach to drugs is fail­ing. I am com­mit­ted to tack­ling dru­gre­lated crime.

“I’m work­ing with oth­ers to put my pro­pos­als into ac­tion and make a real dif­fer­ence for the West Mid­lands.”

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