The Budget: £220m to boost new anti-drugs initiatives

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The battle against drug related crime and the rehabilitation of addicts are the central law and order priorities being targeted by the Budget.

The battle against drug related crime and the rehabilitation of addicts are the central law and order priorities being targeted by the Budget.

A national anti-drugs campaign, backed by leading figures from the world of sport and business, is also planned for the coming year.

The major cash boost is an extra £220m over the next three years to fund regional anti-crime initiatives aimed at reducing crime and disorder linked to drugs. In addition, an extra £40m is being made available to help former drug addicts get jobs, providing they kick their habits.

Jack Straw and the chief constables have identified the scourge of drug abuse and trafficking as one of the major law and order problems facing the country.

The cost of crime carried out to fund drug habits is estimated to be £2.5bn a year. Home Office figures published last month showed that 12,250 suspected offenders are arrested every week who have consumed heroin, cocaine or crack in the previous 48 hours; 61 per cent of arrested criminals test positive for one or more drugs.

To address the spiralling problem, the Home Office will be given £220m to distribute to the 376 crime and disorder reduction partnerships, in which police work with other local agencies, in England and Wales. Each partnership will be given from £500,000 to £1m from the extra funding.

Money is also being given to similar schemes in Scotland.

Among the likely initiatives to receive cash funding are police operations that target specific drug problems, such as Scotland Yard's current clamp down on crack cocaine houses; mobile police stations in rural areas where there are drug problems; and centres for education and training for former and recovering drug abusers.

The partnership schemes include local authorities, health authorities, the voluntary sector and residents' associations, as well as the police. There are 10 regional directors who oversee the work of the groups.

Details of the extra money will be announced next week by the Home Secretary,

The Government also plans a high-profile, national anti-drugs campaign that will try to appeal to young people via sports stars.

Previous drug campaigns have been criticised for being too removed from the experience of drug takers. Bleak, black and white photographs of ill-looking junkies, under the heading "heroin screws you up" were dismissed by the vast majority of users who believed the loser image bore no relation to them.

In future advertisements, details of which have yet to be announced, well-known sports celebrities, including footballers, are expected to be used to get the anti-drugs message across.

Making the campaign announcement, Gordon Brown said: "This war against drugs will never be won by Government alone, but can only be won neighbourhood by neighbourhood across the country."

A spokeswoman for drug awareness group DrugScope said it was disappointing that no new cash had been earmarked to help former drug abusers reintegrate into society by helping them with housing and employment needs.

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