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Children supported, vulnerable people helped and more arrests made in first year of project to reduce drugs harm in Bristol

Police , Sounth Bristol Beat Knowle and Hartcliffe 2022 copyright Neil Phillips
Officers on patrol in Hartcliffe, one of the areas to benefit from Project ADDER work

Avon and Somerset Police have stepped up drugs enforcement in Bristol and developed a mentoring programme to help divert young people away from drug crime, using Home Office funding.

In April 2021, Avon and Somerset Police was awarded £1.4 million over two years, alongside Bristol City Council who were awarded £3.4 million, under Project ADDER, which stands for Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery. The scheme aims to reduce drug-related crime, deaths and use by taking a holistic approach to tackling the problems that drugs bring to people and communities.

Police have funded a range of schemes and initiatives which aim to educate and divert young people away from involvement in drugs; equipment and resources to facilitate additional enforcement activity in the areas of the city where drugs cause the most harm; improving referral and support pathways into treatment for people committing crime to fund drugs habits; and employing more anti-social behaviour co-ordinators to ensure those who do not engage in treatment and continue causing harm in local communities are dealt with effectively.

Bristol Commander Superintendent Mark Runacres said: “The first year of funding under Project ADDER has allowed us to step up our enforcement in the areas of the city where drugs cause the most harm, set up innovative youth diversion and intervention schemes with partner agencies, and work with experts to improve pathways to treatment and support for our most vulnerable people.

“Having sustained funding will mean we can continue to build on the successes we have already achieved and ensure that the schemes and pathways we have set up or widened, continue to improve outcomes for vulnerable people, reduce crime and prevent harm.”

A trainee drugs worker with Bristol Drugs Project, who has lived experience of drug addiction and is now working to help other people thanks to Project ADDER said: “The traineeship has really challenged me to get out of my comfort zone but it has also built my confidence and given me a new life, one were I don’t have to depend on benefits or handouts.

“I can hold my head up and support my son and family and be an example to the wider community showing that we can change. The fact that organisations like BDP can give opportunities to someone like me with a long history of offending and addiction to become drugs workers it’s amazing.”

Over the past year, Project ADDER funding has enabled police, in partnership with Bristol City Council to:

  • Contribute towards over 1,000 arrests linked to drugs in Bristol including 351 for supply offences and 370 for weapons offences
  • Employ intelligence analysts to help us better target enforcement work as well as identifying the most vulnerable people so we can carry our safeguarding visits and make referrals to partner agencies to support with treatment and reduce their vulnerability.
  • Support independent charity Crimestoppers with an awareness campaign which has seen reports of drugs intelligence increase by 22%
  • Commission The BE Project who specialise in bespoke drug and alcohol education and training, to support all secondary schools and pupil referral units in Bristol. Training on substance misuse has been delivered to 686 professionals. 3278 young people have received an educational session.
  • Work with the St Giles Trust and the Robins Foundation to engage with and mentor young people so they can make positive changes to their lives. To date 35 young people have been supported by the St Giles Trust. Nearly all of these young people have shown positive changes in their behaviour and attitude.
  • Continue to run The Call In scheme in partnership with Golden Key and Bristol City Council, which gives young people arrested for drug dealing offences in the east of the city the chance to have their charges dropped if they engage with the course which offers education, training and mentoring in a bid to keep them away from the criminal justice system at the earliest possible chance.
  • Fund drugs treatment workers to support those who have come into custody and whose crimes are likely to have been driven by opiate addiction towards treatment.  The courts are also working with treatment specialists to increase the number of drug rehabilitation requirements given as part of a sentence, as opposed to custodial sentences.
  • Increase engagement in Bristol Prison by:
    • Establishing a mentoring and support service for those who have been groomed into County Lines
    • Increasing enforcement around drugs going into the prison
    • Referring inmates who have drug addictions to drugs workers who can support them both inside prison and when they are released into the community
    • Upgrading the IT system to ensure that health records can be transferred easily between the prison and community NHS services
    • Employ specialist workers from Nelson Trust to support female prisoners inside the prison and in the community
  • Fund trainee drugs workers with Bristol Drugs Project who are in recovery themselves, who use their lived experience to deliver expert advice and support those living with addiction. BDP are also doing outreach to support people vulnerable to exploitation or who may be causing anti-social behaviour in their communities to make positive changes.

In 2021 Bristol was named as one of six accelerator sites for Project ADDER, which had already been piloted in a number of locations across the UK. Project ADDER has built on existing work and expanded 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.