Festus Akinbusoye, Bedfordshire’s Conservative Party candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, has announced a programme aimed at helping offenders break their cycle of dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol.
The Next Step programme will commission county wide, 12-week long drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatments for low to medium risk repeat offenders, as part of an out-of-court disposal contract between Bedfordshire Police and qualifying offenders. During this period, offenders will agree to strict terms of conduct and treatment in return for extra support, rehabilitation and disposal of prosecution.
Recent Home Office data revealed that approximately 34,000 drug users in Bedfordshire spent £113m on cocaine and cannabis alone in 2019. Nationwide, another study found that the cost of illicit drugs to taxpayers in England was nearly £20bn a year. This includes costs to the NHS for treating drug related violence, processing offenders through the criminal justice system and demands on Local Authorities.
Alcohol-related crime costs nearly £2bn to our police and criminal justice system. More than half of a police officer’s workload involves dealing with this problem, with 9 out of 10 officers reporting that alcohol is a significant factor in violent offences, including assaults and domestic abuse.
"I’ve spent over 200 hours serving as a frontline Special Constable throughout Bedfordshire,” explained Festus.
“During this time, it became clear to me the massive role that illicit drug-use and excessive alcohol consumption plays in everyday crime -whether it is shoplifting, burglaries or domestic abuse. Our hardworking police teams are regularly confronted by the same groups of offenders. This inevitably takes them away from other policing duties. It is imperative therefore that we tackle this situation head on,” he emphasised.
‘The Next Step programme’ is designed not only to help those who wish to turn their lives around, but also to free up police time to make Bedfordshire safer.
The programme will also deliver substantial savings on the police budget. Ministry of Justice figures show a £3 return on investment for every £1 spent on alcohol treatment. This gain increases to £4 for drugs treatment. There is also a near 50% decrease in re-offending rates within two years of those undertaking treatment programmes.
"If elected as our next Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire, we will continue to enforce the law through our Boson team and target those who are wreaking havoc and fear in our communities,” said Mr. Akinbusoye.
“As well as enforcement, I will also focus on the demand side of illicit drugs and alcohol dependency in Bedfordshire through early intervention work by our Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU), and rehabilitation programmes. The Next Step programme will be a key step in making our county safer.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner election is scheduled for Thursday 6 May 2021.