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TONY Blair will set a tough new target this week to halve the number of drug offenders who return to crime to feed their habit.

At present, 90 per cent of those caught return to prey on the community by stealing the pounds 10,000 to pounds 20,000 a year they need to buy their supplies of heroin or cocaine.

A target to halve this total by the year 2008 will be announced this week by Cabinet Office Minister Jack Cunningham after Britain's pounds 106,000- a-year new drugs tsar, Keith Hellawell, issues his first report.

Last night the Prime Minister pledged to unite Britain in the fight to break "the terrible cycle of drugs and crime that blights so many lives".

His rallying call came as Mr Hellawell prepared to report on soaring links between drugs and crime.

And it came on the same day that three men - two Turkish-Cypriots and a Dutch national - were being questioned following the seizure of pounds 2million worth of heroin at Dartford.

Mr Hellawell said yesterday: "It is difficult to exaggerate the damage that drugs bring to communities. We must and we will break the cycle of despair."

His report will show that 30 per cent of all crime is drugs-related. Statistics will prove that a third of those arrested were dependent on one or more drugs, yet only one in five was getting treatment - even though research shows a 70 per cent fall in crime when addicts are in treatment.

Now the Government plans to step up their new court powers so that people who commit serious crimes can be sentenced to receive treatment.

And an extra pounds 217 million is being ploughed into the 10- year national plan to try to hold back the tidal wave of drugs entering Britain.

Mr Blair said yesterday: "Tackling the drugs problem is an enormous long- term task."

Mr Hellawell has said he is concerned because teenagers smoke heroin without realising it is an addictive drug.

"You get dealers selling to young people a joint of brown heroin to smoke. Many young people don't know what that is, especially when it is used around the recreational scene, the dance scene," he said.

As a result, he will recommend that Britain should adopt the Australian system in which heroin deaths are announced every day.

Home Office research has shown a new wave of heroin abuse in many smaller cities, towns and rural areas and Mr Hellawell also aims to combat that.

But he will warn that when there is success in getting more people into treatment it may appear the situation is becoming worse.

At the moment, doctors report to health authorities the ages and numbers of new addicts and people returning to the register for help after six months. This regional drug misuse database is published twice a year by the Department of Health.

Earlier this month Mr Hellawell admitted there were not enough treatment places for youngsters - but details of the millions of pounds being invested to improve this situation will be announced this week.

Meanwhile almost 100 MPs, including eight Tories, have signed a Commons motion calling for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.


plan to

combat the peril facing

our youth

KEITH HELLAWELL'S National plan has four main targets:

To reduce the proportion of under 25-year-olds using illegal drugs.

To cut the number of re-offenders.

To increase the participation in rehabilitation programmes of drug misusers - including prisoners.

To reduce the access to drugs of five to 16-year-olds.

In his annual report Mr Hellawell (above) will stress the increasing importance of smashing the link between drugs and crime.

Weapons will include a national early warning system to track the spread of heroin throughout the country.

Under the scheme doctors, drug agencies and the police will provide regular bulletins to a central database of new heroin users, registered addicts and people going into treatment clinics.

The idea is to pinpoint new clusters of heroin abuse and monitor the success of treatment programmes.

Deaths from heroin overdoses in Britain are running at about 250 a year - but this is still only one-tenth of the death rate in some countries with a much larger problem, such as Australia.

There is growing anxiety about the increasing number of young people taking heroin, with dealers selling teenagers brown heroin to smoke.

And Mr Hellawell has found that many youngsters wouldn't regard themselves as being involved in drugs if they smoked cannabis.
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Buckland, Chris
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 23, 1999
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