A drug testing program is to be extended in Suffolk where suspects arrested for certain offences are drug tested automatically and if they are found to be using drug then they are offered help to overcome their drug abuse.

The ‘Drug Testing on Arrest’ (DTOA) scheme was piloted at the Martlesham Police Investigation Centre from August 2012 and following the success the six-month pilot was extended until September 2013.

A study was presented to Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner in August, when the decision to extend the scheme was approved, therefore continuing the initiative.

The DTOA schemes aim is to identify users of Class ‘A’ drugs heroin and cocaine/crack who commit crime to fund their misuse, by requesting a mouth swab from adults arrested (or charged) with any ‘trigger offence’ and checking it for the presence of the Class ‘A’ drugs.

Crimes such as theft, burglary and handling stolen goods are two of the main trigger offences. The week has seen police forces across the country carrying out proactive operations, reinforcing crime prevention messages and promoting arrests of potential burglars.

The DTOA initiative looks to prevent crime by breaking the cycle and stopping reoffending. It involves criminal justice and drug treatment providers working together with other services to provide a tailored solution for adults, particularly those who misuse Class A drugs who commit crime to fund their drug misuse.

Where the drug test is positive, the detainee is legally required to attend and remain at a Required Assessment unit with someone from the local Criminal Justice Integrated Team (CJIT). The CJIT worker will help the drug user seek treatment and other support.

Ultimately, Drug Testing on Arrest enables those who are addicted to Class A substances to access the services they need in order to address their behaviour, stop committing crime and recover from illicit drug use.

Supt Jon Dodman said: “This scheme is an excellent example of pro-active work being undertaken to help us take measures to steer offenders away from drug use and therefore away from associated crime.

“A large number of offenders who regularly use drugs commit crime to fund their addiction. If we can intervene at the arrest stage, by testing them and directing them towards appropriate treatment, we are not only attempting to steer them away from this dangerous lifestyle, but we are also effectively removing a huge strain from public health and police resources.”

Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore said: “I fully support this drug testing on arrest initiative, which has proven to work well in Ipswich. Offenders testing positive for drugs are given the choice to opt for treatment and not face court. Once signed up to the treatment programme it is compulsory to attend otherwise the individual goes back into the criminal justice system. I fully support this carrot and stick approach, I want to see people given a second chance but not a third or fourth.”

Councillor Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, added:

“We are pleased to support the Drug Testing on Arrest project at Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre. Directly targeting those who do the most harm to themselves and the communities they live in provides a unique opportunity for drug users to swiftly access treatment in order to address their behaviours and become free from addiction. Since the project began in Martlesham, Suffolk last year, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people in the criminal justice system accessing treatment services. We are therefore encouraged that the project is now being delivered in other parts of the county.”