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This Merseyside drugs prevention project is celebrating three years of helping stop drug deaths

1 month ago

This Merseyside drugs prevention project is celebrating three years of helping stop drug deaths
Detective Superintendent Paul Speight and Inspector Susan Stribling from Project ADDER

Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery) was launched in January 2021 across Wirral, Knowsley and Liverpool by Merseyside Police and partners.

A project aiming to prevent drug related deaths, offending and drug prevalence is making a real difference in Merseyside, three years since its launch. It was introduced to test a whole-system, public health approach to tackling drug misuse and drug-related crime, which is driven by Merseyside police and local authority partners and involves drug treatment and recovery services.

Three years into the project, Merseyside has seen a reduction in drugs possession offences (222 fewer offences, down 2.9 percent), a reduction in drugs trafficking offences (37 fewer offences, down 2.6 per cent) and a significant 109 per cent increase (755 more referrals) in drug users being referred to drug support agencies.

Project ADDER supports and steers people away from a life of taking drugs, with the main aim to re-engage individuals into society and introduce them to programmes focused on treatment and recovery.

One of the ways this has been achieved is through a review of the Vulnerable Persons Referral Form (VPRF) and training hundreds of colleagues across the force. This is used by officers and staff to signpost a vulnerable person to relevant support agencies, such as drug treatment providers.

In the financial year 2023/24 alone, officers and staff have used the VPRF to refer more than 1,900 people into treatment with one of the funded drug treatment providers – Wirral Ways, With You and Change Grow Live.

Emily* is now living her life free from drugs and abuse, after the support of officers and partner agencies, made possible through Project ADDER.

From the age of 13, Emily was an active drug user, after being coerced mentally, and sexually abused by those around her. Her parents gave her drugs, and this then led her onto a path of selling drugs to fuel her own habit.

At the age of 21, Emily was emotionally and physically abused by a man who she thought of as her boyfriend. While attending hospital, staff noticed the signs of abuse and contacted the police.

For her safety, officers removed Emily from the situation she had found herself in, completed a VPRF and referred her to Wirral Ways, to undertake rehabilitation treatment. Emily completed her treatment in early 2024 and is now completely drug free, living in her own accommodation and is receiving ongoing support.

Merseyside Police New HQ
Merseyside Police New HQ

The work of Project ADDER is also putting criminals on the back foot by tackling economic crime such as fraud, money laundering and the recovery of criminal assets. Many people fall victim to fraud every day and often it’s the most vulnerable members of our communities who are targeted by criminals. 

With support from Project ADDER, the Economic Crime Team has secured 248 positive outcomes for fraud offences and seized more than £3.7 million pounds in the last year – with nearly 50 per cent of this due to be reinvested back into the force to help protect communities. A positive outcome means action taken by police once an incident has been reported to us and someone has been arrested. This could include several outcomes, for example a charge or caution.

One example of the ongoing partnership work is the IRIS Project. Merseyside Police works in partnership with WithYou, Streetwise, PEARLS Project and Axess Sexual Health to run the innovative project which supports women in Liverpool. The project provides holistic support for women who are exploited through crime to access drug and alcohol treatment, domestic violence support, health checks and housing support.

One woman supported by the project is Jane* who says the programme has saved her life:

“WithYou have taught me about the risks of drug use, and I am learning how to stop using drugs and live a different way. I am also getting help with housing and things seem much brighter. If it was not for the IRIS Project, I don’t know what would have happened to me. They’ve saved my life.”

Inspector Susan Stribling said:

“Project ADDER really is at the heart of everything that prevention is about – working in partnership to prevent drug related deaths, offending and drug prevalence.

“The project combines coordinated, and targeted, law enforcement with expanded diversionary programmes, and enhanced treatment and recovery services, including housing and employment support.

“As we mark three years of Project Adder in Merseyside, it’s pleasing to see reductions in drug offences and an increase in drug referrals to our support agencies. This collaborative programme is helping to end the cycle of reoffending and is supporting thousands of vulnerable people in the areas of Liverpool, Wirral and Knowsley to get out of the vicious cycle of drugs addiction.

“Through the ongoing work of police, authority partners and drug treatment and recovery services, we are seeing sustained reductions in drug-related crime and harm in our communities.

“Alongside this prevention work, our officers continue to target perpetrators who exploit vulnerable drug users and will support and work with anyone subjected to cuckooing, county lines and drug trafficking, so we can identify key offenders and put them before the courts.”

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said:

“These results show Project ADDER is making a real difference across Merseyside.

“Merseyside Police is robust in tackling the heartless gangs that peddle drugs and bring misery to our streets, but we can also prevent crime and reduce reoffending by supporting vulnerable people to tackle their drug and alcohol use.

“It’s clear from the testimonies that ADDER is transforming and even saving lives, giving people hope for the future.

“By doing so, it’s also freeing up valuable police resources and making our communities safer for all and that’s something we can all celebrate as this successful programme marks its third anniversary.”

Find more information about Project ADDER and the Merseyside Police website.

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