War on drugs is lost, says po­lice boss

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

WEST Mid­lands Po­lice and Crime Com­mis­sioner David Jamieson says it is time to ac­cept that “we have lost the war on drugs”.

He be­lieves it is time for an “adult con­ver­sa­tion” on the topic, say­ing that we should be treat­ing drug ad­dicts as peo­ple with a health prob­lem rather than as crim­i­nals.

The il­le­gal drug trade costs pub­lic ser­vices in the West Mid­lands £1.4 bil­lion each year, as well as caus­ing half of all ac­quis­i­tive crime such as theft and bur­glary.

In Fe­bru­ary the PCC out­lined a series of ‘trans­for­ma­tive’ drug poli­cies for the re­gion, and trav­elled to Switzer­land in June on a fact-find­ing mis­sion to see how a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to drug users worked.

Heroin-as­sisted treat­ment rooms, where users can be pre- scribed a small dose of safe heroin by a doc­tor, have seen the num­ber of drug-re­lated over­doses halve there.

Mr Jamieson said: “I want to re­fo­cus drugs pol­icy to the harm, to the crimes caused that are con­nected with drugs, and then the cost of it all.

“Be­cause on all three things we’re get­ting it wrong.

“In pub­lic pol­icy the war on drugs, as we call it, we have lost. And it’s an ex­pen­sive war that we’re car­ry­ing on that’s fail­ing. It’s fail­ing the peo­ple on drugs, it’s fail­ing the peo­ple who suf­fer from the para­pher­na­lia on the streets, and are wor­ry­ing about their chil­dren get­ting in­volved.

“And it’s hit­ting the tax­payer big time.

“One of the ar­eas that we’re look­ing at is bring­ing the pro­ba­tion-type work for­ward, so that many peo­ple on drugs can get help, di­vert­ing them away from their crim­i­nal­ity.

“We’ve got a prison heav­ing with young men in there for mi­nor deal­ing crimes. And they’re mainly do­ing the mi­nor deal­ing be­cause they’re try­ing to feed their habit. It’s just crazy.

“And in some cases we are look­ing at the health ser­vice.

“Could the health ser­vice pre­scribe cer­tain things? Be­cause then, of course, they don’t need to steal, they don’t need para­pher­na­lia on the street. So we’re look­ing at that as an ap­proach.

“Peo­ple on drugs, peo­ple liv­ing dys­func­tional lives, need a lot more health­care. They’re in and out of hos­pi­tal all the time, and what we want to do is try and reg­u­late their lives, so in fact there’s a sav­ing there. But the sav­ing also comes from a low­er­ing of crime, be­cause bur­glar­ies and steal­ing are re­duced.”

> PCC David Jamieson

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