A UNIQUE pilot scheme in Newport city centre to help people tackle their alcohol addiction is proving successful, organisers have said, not only for its effect on crime, but also for those being treated.

The scheme, which pairs a Community Support Officer with a drugs worker, is a collaboration between Newport city centre Neighbourhood Policing Team and the government-funded Drug Interventions Programme (Dip) to tackle all substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol.

Together they go to areas where drink and drug users gather, and build a relationship with them, referring consenting individuals to support agencies.

Tackling the issue in this way is unique in the UK, explained Gwent regional manager for the Dip, Lyn Webber.

“The scheme was initially set up to target hard-to-reach alcohol misusers who consume copious amounts of alcohol,” he said.

“They are committing crimes to fund their addiction and they become part of the furniture of Newport city centre, which is sad for them and also not the image we want to portray. This initiative aims to sort out their addiction and make Newport safer and more inviting, as well as reducing crime.”

Since the pilot’s inception in July this year, the team has supported 49 people ‘on the street’ in Newport, with 27 of those now receiving ongoing support and treatment.

A drop-in clinic has also been set up in conjunction with Newport Night Shelter.

“To get that level of engagement is outstanding,” said Mr Webber.

The treatment is delivered through Kaleidoscope and the link with Newport Night Shelter was developed by the drugs worker.

“Speaking to colleagues at the Home Office, we are the only force in the whole of the UK putting out a drugs worker with a PCSO to tackle the problem together. It’s a really good initiative and the results are outstanding,” Mr Webber added.

Homelessness compounds the issue of substance misuse, said Mr Webber, but once people engage the authorities can help stabilise their lives, help them to get on to benefits and into employment.

However, many people do not think that substance misuse includes alcohol, said Mr Webber.

“Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances in the UK without a doubt,” he said.

“It’s readily available and socially acceptable. Alcohol misuse contributes to domestic violence and increases violence in the city, theft and robberies. Alcohol itself does cause us concerns.”

Although police and other organisations are anticipating an escalation in alcohol-related incidents in the city centre over the festive period, the pilot scheme is aimed at people who drink 12 months of the year, not just at Christmas, Mr Webber said.

The initiative addresses offending behaviour as well as substance misuse.

“With acquisitive crime people are funding their habit. There is a big proportion who have some sort of substance misuse issue. How would they otherwise afford it? If they use four bags of heroin a day, even I would have difficulty financially supporting that sort of habit.

“They either pay their supplier or exchange (stolen goods) for drugs. It has a massive impact on the crime figures.”

Dip “categorically works”, Mr Webber said, according to a recent study.

It showed that more than 59 per cent did not commit an offence while engaging with the Dip or for 12 months afterwards.

Thanks to Welsh Government funding of £15,000, the post of drug worker has been funded until March and Mr Webber is hopeful they will extend the scheme into Pill and Bettws.

“You definitely make more than your money back in terms of crime reduction,” said Mr Webber.

“If we can change the appearance of the city centre people will be more likely to come here and everybody benefits from one small investment.”

Crime and anti-social behaviour in Newport continue to fall, with incidents dropping from 100 in July to October 2011, to 68 incidents in the same period this year.

Neighbourhood policing inspector for Newport city centre, Chris Watts, said: “Our research has shown that substance misusers in the city centre are committing crime to fund their addiction, so in order to tackle this it is important that we address these root causes.

“During this pilot serious acquisitive crime in the city centre has fallen by 32 per cent. This is a positive achievement and something that we

THE success of a unique scheme in Newport city centre to tackle alcoholics and drug addicts is to be applauded.

The scheme is the only one in the UK that pairs police community support officers with workers from the government’s Drug Interventions Programme.

The people running the programme in Newport say it is helping to cut crime while also providing vital help to those with severe alcohol or drug problems.

Perhaps the most important part of this scheme is the way in which it raises awareness of alcohol misuse.

Most people tend to view substance abuse as a problem that relates to illegal drugs or solvents.

The reality is that many crimes, particularly those that involve violence, are committed by people with major alcohol problems.

Getting the message out that alcohol misuse is a massive problem in city centres like Newport is hugely important.

Getting people with alcohol problems off our streets and into treatment programmes is a vital part of the battle against crime.

If schemes like Dip in Newport can help addicts reform and change the appearance of the city centre for the better then we are all in favour.

Welsh Government funding of £15,000 for the project is a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things and would appear to be an example of public money well spent.