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Project ADDER dismantling criminal gangs dealing drugs

New figures reveal that since launching two years ago, Project ADDER has supported thousands of disruptions against criminal gangs selling drugs in England and Wales and helped thousands of people into drug treatment, including in Liverpool.

Project ADDER (Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery), which recently reached its two-year anniversary, is a programme designed to address drug addiction and tackle supply in the hardest hit local authority areas across England and Wales.

Co-ordinated police action helps tackle the supply of drugs in the worst affected neighbourhoods. Forces aggressively act on intelligence to disrupt the flow of drugs, while working with partners at a local level to divert vulnerable people into treatment and help them recover from their addiction.

The programme has supported the police to make 2,729 interventions against organised criminal gangs, strangling county lines networks which feed the flow of drugs and dislodging criminal operations – maintained through intimidation, violence and exploitation of local people – which dealers seek to profit from in the towns.

Officers have seized £9.8 million of cash, made 25,953 arrests and pursued 3,808 drug trafficking and 2,757 weapon possession charge against the individuals behind these ruthless, criminal operations.

£59 million of central government funding supports each Project ADDER foster partnerships between local councils, the police and charities to identify and encourage people in the community into treatment. Once there, drug users can receive therapy and drug rehabilitation.

4,966 people in drug treatment have also benefitted from Project ADDER, while 7,672 Naloxone kits, which reverses the effects of potentially fatal opioid overdoses, have been distributed to keep users safe outside of treatment services.

Matt Ashton, Director of Public Health for Liverpool City Council said: “I’m delighted that Liverpool has had this major investment into our front-line services which has allowed us to realise many of our ambitions to improve the way we support people with their drug and alcohol use.

“Partnership working has been integral to the success of ADDER, and from a citywide perspective we are delighted with the results. We have been able to use a whole system approach that strengthens partnerships working with Merseyside Police, Merseycare Foundation Trust, We Are With You and YMCA Together so that we can support more individuals and communities across the city.”

Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Our trail-blazing response to combatting drug-use is working, and I’m pleased to see the data shows communities are safer thanks to a combination of tough law enforcement and more treatment and recovery services.

“However, we must not lose momentum. Our 10-year drug strategy is driving up drug treatment and we are investing £532 million to tackle addiction. By the end of the parliament, local authority funding for treatment will have grown by 40% compared to 2020.”

There have also been 9,208 Out of Court Disposal orders issued for drug possession offences in Project ADDER areas since the programme began, guiding vulnerable people exploited by gangs away from the criminal justice system and towards holistic treatment.

Project ADDER is a pathfinder for the government’s 10-year Drug Strategy, from Harm to Hope, which is rolling out a bold new approach to reducing drug related harm nationally.

Published in December 2021, the strategy sets out our ambition to significantly increase the capacity of treatment and recovery services in England and Wales. This includes £780 million for drug treatment and recovery – the largest ever single investment which will see 54,500 people receive high quality treatment for addiction in England. We expect this investment to reduce neighbourhood crime like theft which funds drug users’ addiction, leading to 750,000 fewer crimes by the end of 2024/25.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said: “Intervening early to support vulnerable people is vital if we are to prevent crime from happening in the first place.

“Project ADDER is a fantastic example of the difference this approach can make – thousands of individuals diverted away from the criminal justice system and into the right place to get the help and treatment they need.

“This is not only helping to transform their lives, it is freeing up police resources and making our communities safer. This is backed up with robust enforcement targeting heartless individuals who seek to profit from other people’s misery. The results from ADDER show organised crime gangs are disrupted and dismantled, weapons are off our streets and young people are protected.”

Art, creative writing and community work also has a role in providing those recovering with new purpose. Instead of falling back into addiction, crime or prison, local projects provide those recovering with stability to build a life away from drugs, through training, finding employment and permanent housing.

In Project ADDER funded areas since July 2021, Merseyside Police has:

• Conducted 818 disruptions against organised crime groups.
• Made 7,269 arrests for drug possession, drug trafficking, and weapons offences.
• Seized £3,933,262.90 in cash.


Lucy* from Liverpool was using Class A drugs and was stuck in an abusive relationship when she found Project ADDER. In May 2022 she met Red Umbrella, a project which uses Project ADDER funding to get help for people experiencing sexual exploitation. Red Umbrella stayed in touch with Lucy when she became homeless and supported her into a refuge after she was nearly killed by a partner. Lucy has said without Red Umbrella, who accompanied her through a court hearing for domestic abuse, “I really don’t know where I would be”. Red Umbrella helped Lucy into drug treatment with another Project ADDER partner, Liverpool Rise, a residential rehab facility for adults in Merseyside. Now clean, Lucy is due to start a volunteering job.

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