Addicts at the sharp end as dealers swept from Sheffield's streets

WITHIN the space of just a few hours drug workers and former users patrolling the streets in the wake of the raids spoke to 50 addicts who turned up in Sheffield city centre hoping to score.

In a unique initiative, Government-funded Drug Intervention Programme (DIP) workers and ex-addicts managed to get immediate assessment appointments for 13 people that day - Wednesday - and another 10 yesterday, with further slots made available for anyone else identified as needing help.

They are following up the police operation with a scheme to fast-track addicts onto treatment programmes and to get help and support for their families.

The patrols also identified four areas around the Castle Market area in need of a clean-up after finding them littered with discarded needles and dug-related paraphernalia.

It is not known how many addicts will have been affected by this weeks raids, but DIP, which aims to reducing drug- related crime and help more addicts into treatment, currently has 2,200 users from Sheffield in treatment.

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    Research carried out by Glasgow University in 2006 estimated the city had 3,948 addicts at that time.

    DIP manager Kate Mitchell said: "Having 50 people in the city centre looking for drugs is an awful lot of people.

    People are coming into the city to shop for drugs but it is difficult to estimate the numbers involved although the officers who have been monitoring dealers will know the extent of the problem.

    "To find 50 users in the space of a few hours is significant."

    She said many addicts approached on the street patrols volunteered for treatment after talking to ex-users who have turned their lives around.

    A mobile police station has been set up on Exchange Street in the city centre where police officers and community support officers are talking to shoppers and traders about the police operation aimed at improving the market area, which has been plagued by drugs for some time.

    DIP operations manager Donna Linehan said: "This is a new venture for us to have workers and volunteers doing outreach work on the streets looking to identify users who may have had their regular supply disrupted as a result of the police activity this week.

    "We are making ourselves easily available to anyone wanting help and are trying to get as many people as we can into treatment to make the most of this opportunity when the supply of drugs has been affected so dramatically."

    Inspector Marko Zalad, South Yorkshire Police's drug testing compliance officer, said: "In the past we have found that windows of opportunity available to help people into treatment, when we have taken out dealers in a particular area, have been missed, so we wanted to exploit the opportunity this time.

    "This operation will have a huge impact on crime because if users have a 100-a-day habit they will have to steal 400 worth of property to fund that habit.

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    Addicts at sharp end.

    For video reports of this week's drug crackdowns.

    War on drug dealers.

    Footage of drug dealers in action.

    Drug vampires diven off streets

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    What do you think? Add your comment below."The hope is that the more people that go into treatment as a result of this operation the less demand there will be for drugs, so less crime will committed."

    Inspector Neil Mutch, who covers the city centre, welcomed the police operation and support made available for addicts.

    "Drugs have had a detrimental affect on businesses, so this operation should demonstrate our commitment to the area. We want to support traders and help make the city centre a safe place to visit and work in, not somewhere blighted by drugs," he said.

    "This operation, including the DIP involvement, is a fantastic step forward because if we can halt the supply and get users into treatment it will help break the cycle of people committing crime to buy drugs and bringing this area down."