Avon and Somerset Police have been given £1.5 million over two years to help reduce drugs harm in Bristol, as part of a new Home Office project which takes a holistic approach to tackling drugs misuse and its associated crime.
This is in addition to a £3.4 million fund being managed by Bristol City Council under Project ADDER, which stands for Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery and which aims to reduce drug-related crime, deaths and use.
The police approach to Project ADDER involves investment in additional kit and tools needed to step up enforcement. Officers will increase high visibility patrols of hot spot areas and engage in targeted days and weeks of action. Working alongside experts from health and substance misuse organisations, they will not only arrest those suspected of drug dealing, but also support vulnerable people to get the help and support they need.
The funding opportunity allows police to bring in expertise, such as mental health specialists, giving police and partners the opportunity to be innovative. Avon and Somerset Police have already commissioned the St Giles Trust to build a network of community mentors to work with young people on the ground, who need support to make better choices and to prevent them from being exploited by criminal gangs.
Bristol Commander Superintendent Mark Runacres said: “For far too long, drug taking, dealing and the associated anti-social behaviour and crime has blighted the lives of too many people in Bristol.
“Whether it’s a parent walking their child to school passing used needles, a family living in a flat next door to persistent drug dealing, or a vulnerable person being exploited by ruthless drug dealers, many of us witness the harm and misery that drugs cause in our communities.
“Our approach will use the local knowledge of neighbourhood policing teams, who understand their communities and the specific problems which need to be addressed. We need to balance enforcement with diversion and education to make lasting change.
“We’ll improve pathways to support and grow existing pathways to support for the most entrenched and problematic drugs users in the city. This is an opportunity to break the cycle of misery that all too often goes hand in hand with drugs misuse and dealing.
“As ever, we need the support of local people. Please tell us what you know; every report we receive about suspected drug dealing or misuse helps us to build an accurate picture of what is happening, so that we can target our resources effectively. Even though you may not see an immediate police response, your information is invaluable in the fight against the harm caused by drugs in your community.”
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Communities, Equalities and Public Health, said: “We want Bristol to be a place where everyone can live safe from the harms caused by drug misuse. The impact of addiction goes beyond the users themselves and often extends to their families, loved ones, wider communities, services and businesses. Tackling this wider sphere of impact sits at the heart of our new drug and alcohol strategy which aims to improve the support to our city for everyone.
“This funding will enable us to meet the actions set in the new strategy and comes at a vital time. The pressures of the pandemic continue to have a detrimental impact on people’s lives and in some cases have created an environment where we are seeing a rise in drug use.”
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford said: “I am aware of the horrendous impact that drugs can have on an individual, family and the wider community and I also understand the concerns that local people have when drug activity is happening in their neighbourhood. Drugs and resulting crimes cause nothing but misery and feelings of unsafety in the community, which is not acceptable. This is why I am pleased that Avon and Somerset Police has been awarded additional funding to tackle drugs misuse and associated crime.
“Although enforcement will never solely deal with drug crime, we need to recognise the important role it plays alongside early intervention and prevention to reduce harm and damage caused by this awful crime. I look forward to supporting this project and encourage local people to work alongside the police; you know your streets, neighbourhoods and communities better than anyone and your knowledge and experiences are invaluable in this fight against drugs.”
The project has already been piloted in several locations across the UK and now Bristol will be one of six accelerator sites, building on existing work and expanding multi-agency partnership working in the city, taking a system wide approach to the problem and aiming to improve health and crime outcomes related to drugs.
You don’t have to report suspicions to the police – you can report 100% anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800, 555 111. A report to Crimestoppers which leads to a positive result (i.e. arrest and charge or significant use by law enforcement agencies) can lead to a £1000 reward.