Police will send text messages to potential drug users
- Credit: Essex Police
Essex Police will send thousands of text messages to people they think might be using drugs, to offer them help and support to beat substance misuse.
The SMS text messages will be sent to people whose numbers have been identified following investigations into county line drug dealers.
The messages will supply a link and contact number for Open Road, a charity that supports people with drug and alcohol addiction.
Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Basford said the police focus is on targeting and dismantling drugs gangs and supporting the vulnerable people they exploit, but this cannot be done by enforcement alone.
“We hope to reach thousands of potential drug users to let them know there is support available to them.
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“Even if only a fraction of those people seek help from Open Road, we see that as a positive result.
“Drugs gangs exploit drug users and vulnerable people, and we know there are people who may feel trapped by their lifestyle or frightened to get help.
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“We want them to know there is a way out and there are people who can help them.”
Essex Police said it is possible that the intended recipients may no longer have the same contact number, and it could now be used by someone else.
Joni Thompson, clinical and business development director at Open Road, said: “Open Road has 30 years of experience in supporting vulnerable people.
“We fully understand how difficult it is to take that first step to seek and ask for help.
“The service we provide is independent, safe, confidential and non-judgmental.
“Last year across our all our services we supported over 12,000 people, helping them to make sustainable and positive changes in their lives.”
DCI Basford said police were working every day to target and dismantle drugs gangs and support vulnerable people.
"These will include people who are forced or groomed into helping these criminals. For example, where gangs take over someone’s home to use as a base to sell drugs.
“However eradicating the damage caused by drugs will not be achieved by enforcement alone.
“Helping people to get out of this lifestyle and protecting those at risk of being used by gangs is absolutely vital.
“That’s why the work of organisations such as Open Road, and the many others that help and support people across the county, are so vital.
“It’s also really important that as a community, we all recognise the signs of when people may be in danger or need help, because often those individuals don’t recognise they need help themselves, or may be worried to get help.
“If you, or someone you know, is being exploited, please tell us so we can make sure anyone who needs help receives the support they need.”
The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit is providing funding towards the costs of sending the messages.
Essex County Councillor Louise McKinlay, speaking on behalf of the unit, said: “Drugs have such a destructive force on our young people and our communities.
“Within the Violence and Vulnerability Unit we recognise that there are many vulnerable young people and adults who are being criminally exploited and we need them to understand that you don’t have to stay on the same path.
“For some people this could be a real lifeline; to let them know there is a way out.”