To be serious about cutting crime, we also need to be serious about tackling the scourge of drugs in our society. The reason for that is simple: heroin and crack cocaine addiction is linked to almost half of all burglaries, robberies and thefts and drugs contribute to almost half of all murders.
To consider cutting crime and tackling drugs in isolation would be like trying to reduce road deaths without making sure people are wearing seatbelts.
The illegal drugs trade is built on exploitation, greed, violence and human misery. Anyone connected with that trade, from the County Lines dealer to someone who’s smoking “a bit of weed” at the weekend is perpetuating this grim industry and making people, usually the most vulnerable in our society, suffer as a result.
That is why my deputy Nick Evans has stepped forward to take on the task of implementing the Government’s 10 year drug strategy, From Harm to Hope, in Gloucestershire, as Chair of our new Combatting Drugs Partnership.
A three pronged approach aimed at drug dealers, treatment and education
Nick recently chaired the first meeting of the partnership, which brings together Councils, public health and NHS colleagues, our youth services and the police and we expect the attendance to grow further over the next few months as we get to grips with the practicalities of implementing the strategy.
There was a great deal of positivity about the potential we have to make a real difference to communities in our county. The three pronged approach aimed at targeting drug dealers, dramatically improving treatment and educating communities about the terrible harms done and perpetuated by drugs, really demonstrates our Public Health approach to crime prevention in action.
There is a lot of work to do, and some challenging deadlines to meet. Nevertheless, Nick and I are determined that this work is not just more of the same, but we take the opportunity to learn from best practice, and build on the insight of those with personal experience of the impact of drugs can have on an individual, a family or a community. That way, we can check and test what we think will work, against the experience of those we are asking to use the systems, processes and schemes we’re creating.
This work will be developing rapidly over the next months so please look out for opportunities that will be publicised by our health, council and police colleagues to be part of this work to make Gloucestershire safer.