South West Wales

Swansea heroin rehab shortage fears - police

A police chief has warned a crackdown on heroin in Swansea may be undermined by a lack of rehabilitation places.

Police estimate there are 3,000 heroin users in the wider Swansea area, and say 80% of the most prolific offenders are users of the drug.

Officers have launched a £500,000 campaign against drug dealing, while addicts will be referred for treatment.

But there are concerns over whether agencies providing treatment will be able to deal with the extra work.

Drug rehabilitation agencies support the campaign but, if there are not enough treatment places, they fear users could slip back into a life of addiction and crime.

Christine Skelton, the manager of the Cyrenians homeless drop-in centre in the city, said: "The resources we have in Swansea are excellent - we have some brilliant agencies, we just haven't got enough.

"Unless we receive more funding around this, it could get significantly worse."

Drug gangs

This latest crackdown is costing South Wales Police £500,000.

Ch Supt Mark Mathias, who shares the concerns of the agencies, said the money on the campaign was well spent.

"Each addict could cost society not far off £850,000," he said.

"When you work through all the treatment, all the criminal justice issues that arise, then you see a significant number of costs involved."

BBC Wales current affairs programme Week In Week Out was given behind the scenes access to the clampdown on dealers and users.

Recent raids have uncovered links with drug gangs from as far afield as Liverpool and London.

Supt Phil Davies said South Wales Police was committed to dismantling the illegal trade.

"Some of these drug dealers have stated they are untouchable," he said.

"My message to them is there is no hiding place, we will find you, we will catch you and we will put you behind bars."

In the last fortnight, heroin which would have been turned into 1,100 street deals has been seized.

Treatment programme

Those addicted to heroin are also being targeted.

Police want users to break away from the drug to cut crime, but also to try to turn around people's lives.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAmy Protheroe describes heroin's 'devastating' impact on her life.

Feeding a habit in the city can cost up to £100 a day.

Amy Protheroe, who has been an addict since she was 13, is now 20 and has just begun her fifth treatment programme.

Her addiction has led her to crime and she admits it has had a devastating impact on her life.

"When you're a heroin addict you go to bed, you wake up and you open your eyes like that and you think straight away 'where am I going to get money from, where am I going to score from?'" she said.

"You get up, you go out, you get the money for the heroin, you buy the heroin, you do the heroin and then it starts all over again.

"To be honest, heroin has wrecked my life."

Week In Week Out can be seen on Tuesday 1 November on BBC One Wales at 22:35 GMT

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