Class A drug testing on arrest is to be extended across Essex.

Almost three-quarters of a million pounds from the Home Office Police Innovation Fund has been secured to extend a Drug Testing On Arrest pilot programme run in Chelmsford across all of Essex, including the unitary areas of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock.

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: "It has long been known that Class A drug users often commit a significant proportion of acquisitive crime – such as burglaries, shoplifting and robbery.

"The Drug Testing On Arrest programme aims to identify whether a person who’s been arrested and taken to a police custody suite on suspicion of certain offences is a Class A drug user, and if so facilitate their access to treatment.

"The evidence shows that successful treatment for drug misuse will significantly reduce re-offending, and keep our communities safer.

"I’m delighted that we’ve received Home Office Police Innovation funding of £718,000 to expand this project over the next two years.

"The programme will also be subject to a major academic evaluation by the University of Essex School of Health and Human Sciences, ensuring that its effectiveness is subjected to a full analysis.”

The original project was conducted in the Chelmsford area.

During 2013-14, with £16,000 of Police and Crime Commissioner funding, plus money from the Essex Drug and Alcohol Action Team and Safer Essex, the Westminster Drug Project ran a pilot programme in police custody suites to test arrested suspects for the use of Class A drugs.

A positive test for a banned substance triggered early intervention with drug users to address their use of illegal substances and any links to criminal behaviour.

The Chelmsford Drug Testing On Arrest pilot has so far referred 53 individuals for treatment, and 37 have successfully engaged with the programme.