PEOPLE arrested on suspicion of drug related crimes in Essex will be tested as part of a new scheme.

Thousands of crimes costing millions of pounds are linked to drug use in Essex every year.

The Home Office has given Essex Police a £718,000 grant for a scheme called Drug Testing on Arrest to combat the problem.

Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said: “Class A drug users often commit a significant proportion of acquisitive crime.

“The programme aims to identify whether a person arrested on suspicion of certain offences is a Class A drug user, and if so facilitate their access to treatment.

“The evidence shows successful treatment for drug misuse will significantly reduce re-offending, and keep our communities safer.”

The programme will be run for two years and include evaluation by Essex University.

A pilot scheme was previously run in Chelmsford with 53 people referred for treatment and 37 people helped.

When someone is arrested on suspicion of crimes directly related to drugs, such as possession of a class A drug, or crimes which may be indirectly related, such as burglary, theft and robbery, custody staff will consider whether a drug test is appropriate.

If this is then approved by an inspector a saliva swab will be taken.

If the test comes back positive help and treatment for drug use will be made available.

Ann Naylor, cabinet member for public heath at Essex County Council, said: “The aim is to reduce reoffending.”

Derek Benson, Deputy Chief Constable of Essex Police, said “Testing such as this offers Essex Police another valuable tool alongside education and enforcement in tackling drug misuse.”

According to research by the National Treatment Agency a heroin of crack cocaine user costs society more than £25,000 a year.

Home Office research revealed a 26 per cent drop in reoffending following a positive test in custody and subsequent help.

The scheme will run throughout the county.

If only 29 people in the two years stop committing crime the money spent on the scheme will be paid for out of the savings made.

It is hoped an extra 800 people will be referred for treatment as a result of the programme in Essex.