Home Community and neighbourhoods Project ADDER dismantling criminal gangs dealing drugs

Project ADDER dismantling criminal gangs dealing drugs

by Jonathan Kearney

New figures reveal that since launching two years ago, Project ADDER has helped disrupt thousands of criminal gangs selling drugs in England and Wales.

Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery), which recently reached its two-year anniversary, is a programme designed to address drug addiction and tackle supply in the hardest hit local authority areas across England and Wales.

Coordinated police action has seen resources concentrated on some of the worst affected neighbourhoods with forces aggressively acting on intelligence. The programme has supported 2,749 organised criminal group disruptions, £9.8 million of cash seizures and 25,953 arrests of people involved in the illegal drug trade.

The government has provided the police with £59 million of funding, assisting forces to deliver 3,808 drug trafficking and 2,757 weapons possession charges. There have also been 9,208 Out of Court Disposal orders issued for drug possession offences in ADDER areas since the programme began, guiding vulnerable people exploited by gangs away from the criminal justice system and towards holistic treatment.

Combatting Drugs Minister Chris Philp said: “These results show Project ADDER is having an impact. Funding from the Home Office is being used in the hardest hit local authorities to remove gangs who do not care for the substances in the drugs they are selling which can have fatal consequences.

“Ridding streets of dangerous drugs is only one part of Project ADDER. Vulnerable people are supported by tailored programmes to coax them away from addictive substances. Every circumstance is different but under Project ADDER more people in these local authorities are getting the support they need, which is so important.”

Over the past two years, Project ADDER has supported areas afflicted by drugs, balancing strong action against dealers and gangs with innovative treatments for drug users to find support. 4,966 people in drug treatment have benefitted from Project ADDER, while 7,672 Naloxone kits, which reverses the effects of potentially fatal opioid overdoses, have been distributed to keep users safe outside of treatment services.

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Our trail-blazing response to combatting drug-use is working, and I’m pleased to see the data shows communities are safer thanks to a combination of tough law enforcement and more treatment and recovery services.

“However, we must not lose momentum. Our 10-year drug strategy is driving up drug treatment and we are investing £532 million to tackle addiction.  By the end of the parliament, local authority funding for treatment will have grown by 40% compared to 2020”.

Project ADDER fosters partnerships between local councils, the police and charities to identify and encourage people in the community into treatment. Once there, drug users can receive therapy and drug rehabilitation.

AM from Knowsley had an overall goal of becoming illicit drug free when assessed in 2016. AM was difficult to engage and would often fall off prescription due to poor physical health meaning they could not attend the pharmacy. AM was repeatedly admitted to hospital due to deteriorations in physical health and increased drug use. Collections from the chemist were reduced as much as possible to avoid AM falling out of script but the risk had to be managed with the risk of overdose.

Buvidal was offered to AM due to repeatedly falling out of prescription. Buvidal was being piloted in Knowsley with funding from Project ADDER. Starting on Buvidal meant that AM was no longer going to the pharmacy and encountering people who would usually try to sell drugs. This meant AM was ultimately able to become illicit drug free and their physical health improved enough that they were able to start attending appointments in person.

After stopping illicit drug use, AM was able to use Buvidal as a detox option in the community (rather than an inpatient detox) and the Buvidal prescription was eventually ended in January 2023 and AM was ultimately discharged from services drug free in March 2023.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Intervening early to support vulnerable people is vital if we are to prevent crime from happening in the first place. Project ADDER is a fantastic example of the difference this approach can make – thousands of individuals diverted away from the criminal justice system and into the right place to get the help and treatment they need.

“This is not only helping to transform their lives, it is freeing up police resources and making our communities safer. This is backed up with robust enforcement targeting heartless individuals who seek to profit from other people’s misery. The results from ADDER show organised crime gangs are disrupted and dismantled, weapons are off our streets and young people are protected.”

Art, creative writing and community work also has a role in providing those recovering with new purpose. Instead of falling back into addiction, crime or prison, local projects provide those recovering with stability to build a life away from drugs, through training, finding employment and permanent housing.

In Project ADDER funded areas since July 2021 Merseyside Police has:

  • Conducted 818 disruptions against organised crime groups.
  • Made 7269 arrests.
  • Seized £3,933,262.90 in cash.