Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, has responded to the launch of the Government’s 10 year drug strategy for England and Wales.
The new strategy aims to combine greater investment in treatment programmes, both in the health service and the prison service, alongside a tougher crack down on drug supply.
Dr Billings said: “I welcome this long overdue drugs strategy and especially the recognition that if it is to work it has to be tackled in a sustainable way over many years.
“Drugs blight the lives of individuals and their families and in some cases whole communities.
“The police work tirelessly to disrupt and arrest organised crime gangs, who not only control the drugs supply but are also responsible for much of the serious violence in communities, which is usually linked to inter-gang competition over the supply of drugs. It also involves county lines offences, where people, often children, are trafficked across boundaries and borders to commit offences.
“Often we see the activities of a few suppliers or drug users making the lives of others quite miserable. I was out last weekend on the Westminster estate, Sheffield, where I witnessed this for myself.
“But it is never enough to imprison people for drug offences because as soon as they leave prison they revert to old ways. We must get people off drugs as well.
“Whilst I welcome the government’s announcement around stronger sentencing and support of treatment programmes, it is important that this is backed up with appropriate levels of funding, otherwise there is a limit to what can be achieved.
“We should not forget that what enabled the spread of the drug markets and allowed organised gangs to expand their activities and become rooted in many communities, including here in South Yorkshire, were the cuts not only in police numbers from 2010 but also in the public sector in general.
“The cuts to social services, the youth service and probation have all had their impact and we are paying the price for it now.”