Last year, Avon and Somerset Police enacted 24 drug-related closure orders on properties across the area. Of these, 14 were carried out in Bristol by the Project ADDER team, a project funded by the Home Office to reduce drug-related crime and deaths in Bristol.
These closure orders are part of our work, in partnership with local authorities and services, to tackle the significant impact that drug-related crime and is having on communities.
Windows smashed, fighting on the street outside, and open drug-use on their doorsteps are just some of the realities of living near to a ‘drug house’.
The force’s dedicated Anti-Social Behaviour Team focuses on preventing harm and disruption caused by drugs. As well as the harm it does to surrounding residents living in the communities where the drug-use and dealing takes place, there are often vulnerable people involved or living in the property as well, who may be involved in substance misuse themselves, or being exploited by those using their property.
Unfortunately, it is often the case class A drugs are prepared at these properties by organised criminals to make them ready for sale. Street dealers are known to use grooming techniques to establish themselves within the homes of vulnerable people or drug users at risk of exploitation, this is known as ‘cuckooing’. The people targeted are often incredibly vulnerable with chaotic lifestyles and traumatic lived experience. Their dependency on class A drugs can often be so substantial that the lure of ‘free’ drugs for allowing dealers into their home is simply overwhelming.
Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinator, Paul Crouch, said: “Drug-related anti-social behaviour can be hugely distressing for people in our communities, especially those living next to or near to a property involved. We get a huge response from members of the public who have been impacted by these issues, who are always incredibly grateful for giving them their community back.
“It is rare that those we take action against are grateful for our involvement, but the trauma and chaos that their lives may involve can prevent them from realising the benefits until many months later when our team’s interaction with them has ceased. Some people have stated that having action taken against them has caused them to rethink their future in a more positive light, even while they accept that change will be very hard and complicated for them.”
Cases are reviewed in partnership with the police, local councils, adult social care, mental health support services, and drug use referrals, who work together to identify the best course of action and any safeguarding risks that are present.
Interventions can include Community Protection Notice warnings, which can exclude people from attending certain properties and areas, and referral to support services and treatment. If these are ignored, then formal Community Protection Notices are issued and individuals are liable to arrest, a fine and a Criminal Behaviour Order, which can lead to up to five years in prison if breached.
Once a closure order is granted, the residents affected will be assessed by the council’s Homelessness team as to what is best for them. Pathways into alternative housing and treatment for drug use or poor mental health are offered and strongly encouraged.
Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities, and Bristol One City said: “The significant effects that drug-related anti-social behaviour have on residents in Bristol is unacceptable. We know that the impact of drugs and alcohol misuse on our communities and society is devastating and can ruins lives.
“Our aim is always to protect residents who are impacted by drug-use or drug related crime occurring in their neighbourhood, while also supporting vulnerable residents who are potentially being exploited by criminals.
“We are working with the police and local community groups to prioritise a holistic and preventative approach to the cycle of harm caused by the misuse of class A drugs with the aim of creating safer communities and better futures for all residents of Bristol.”