Thames Valley Police currently has two pilot drug diversion schemes running in West Berkshire and Windsor & Maidenhead.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, these programmes are still running as users continue to be found in possession of drugs. Amendments to these services have been made to accommodate current guidelines from the government.
Cranstoun, who provide the drug support service, has adapted its services to meet the needs of its service users. This will include moving appointments online and providing video appointments. Where appropriate, some of the diversion courses will be held at a later date.
Both schemes aim to reduce the harm caused by the use of drugs and drug-related offences, allowing offenders in possession of small quantities of illegal drugs an opportunity to be offered a tailored diversion route to address their use of drugs instead of facing prosecution.
The aim is to prevent the cycle of re-offending and long term demand upon the police and judicial services by providing specialist support.
However, offenders found to be in possession of larger quantities of drugs, those suspected of supplying illegal substances or those who do not engage with the specialist support, will face arrest and prosecution.
The Thames Valley Police Drugs Diversion scheme continues running a telephone assessment with a drug service professional to determine the help required. This normally will lead to a treatment plan.
Detective Chief Inspector Jason Kew, the Thames Valley Police lead for Drugs, Exploitation and Harm Reduction, said: “In the short amount of time since social distancing measures have been introduced, there has been an increase in the number of people who are seeking support for their drug use. This could be down to a number of different, individual issues but it is showing the continued importance of alternative ways of policing when it comes to drug use.
“The drugs division pilots have become a very important scheme and in these challenging times I am very pleased that alternatives are still being provided in these two areas.
“There is evidence to suggest links between drug use and criminality. Both pilots offer a tailored programme of support for those who would ordinarily receive a criminal sanction and I am glad this is still available.
“With continued cross sector partner working, this should have a positive impact on the Thames Valley community as a whole.”