West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has called on the government to change course on drugs policy after official statistics released today show that there were 511 drug related deaths in the West Midlands force area between 2016 and 2018, compared to 469 deaths between 2015 and 2017. Across England deaths from drug poisoning rose from 10,348 to 10,915 across the same period.
Across England and Wales in 2018, there was highest number (4,359) and the highest annual increase (16%) in drugs deaths since comparable records began in 1993.
Commenting on the statistics, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, said: “I am committed to tackling drug-related crime, reducing the huge burden on the taxpayer and cutting the tragic number of drug-related deaths.
“Despite the good work being done by many, collectively our approach to drugs is failing.
“If we are to cut crime and save lives there’s one thing we can all agree on; we need fresh ideas. The number of drug deaths are far too high. They are causing untold human misery and are a huge cost to society.
“That is why last month I announced that West Midlands Police are the first force in the country to equip officers on the streets with life-savings naloxone, that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.
“I am working on a number of other initiatives to reduce the harm, cost and crime caused by drugs in the West Midlands.
“The government needs to change course and treat those addicted to drugs as having a health problem. The current national approach is failing and needs to change quickly to save lives and reduce crime.
“The government should be more concerned about the gangs profiting from the misery of drugs, than those suffering from addiction.”
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, has developed a raft of potential solutions to reduce harm and prevent drug-related crime.
The Commissioner’s recommendations to tackle the cost of drugs to the West Midlands can be found here:
The Commissioner’s proposals include:
• Establishing a formal scheme to divert those suffering from addiction into treatment and away from the courts.
• Joining-up police, community safety and public health funding streams to increase efficiency and improve outcomes for those suffering from addiction.
• Prescribing heroin in a medical setting to people suffering from addiction who have not responded to other forms of treatment. This will take the market away from organised criminals and stop people stealing to fund their addiction. Work with the Home Office, who have championed the benefits of Heroin Assisted Treatment.
• Equipping and training police officers in the application of naloxone – a medication that can be used to help those overdosing.
• Establishing a Drug Early Warning Programme, to make the public, outreach workers and medical professionals aware of the impact of emerging drugs. The aim is to reduce the number of deaths.
• Introducing on-site testing in night-time economy areas to reduce the number of deaths and increase the authorities’ intelligence of drugs in circulation.
• Considering the benefits of Drug Consumption Rooms to assess if they would add value to current services in the West Midlands. Drug Consumption Rooms allow people suffering from addiction to access clean equipment, medical support and drug treatment services.
• Ensuring more money is seized from large-scale organised criminal gangs, profiting from the misery of the drugs trade. The extra money will be invested in drug treatment programmes.
The Police and Crime Commissioner wants to see significant progress made against these recommendations by 2020.
The regional figures for drugs death can be found here:
2016 to 2018:
Birmingham 242, Coventry 54, Dudley 56, Sandwell 38, Solihull 33, Walsall 46, Wolverhampton 42
Total West Midlands metropolitan area 511
Total England 10,915
2015 to 2017:
Birmingham 205, Coventry 53, Dudley 49, Sandwell 39, Solihull 29, Walsall 54, Wolverhampton 40
Total West Midlands metropolitan area 469
Total England 10,348