Fact finding mission for police chief
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.”