Essex Police use drug dealers' phone contacts used to help addicts
A police force is using data found on drug dealers' phones to identify and support potential addicts.
Essex Police said SMS text messages would be sent to numbers found on devices owned by known county lines drug dealers.
The messages will offer those trying to overcome substance abuse a way to seek help from a charity.
Det Ch Insp Lewis Basford said the force hoped to reach "thousands" of people through the scheme.
He said: "Drugs gangs exploit drug users and vulnerable people, and we know there are people who may feel trapped by their lifestyle or frightened to get help.
"We want them to know there is a way out and there are people who can help them."
The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit is providing funding for the cost of sending the messages.
"The cost associated with this is minimal," said Det Ch Insp Basford. "The cost associated with drug use and dependency is much higher.
"So the cost-based benefit just for one person would be worth it."
Joni Thompson, from Open Road, the charity helping with the initiative, said: "We fully understand how difficult it is to take that first step to seek and ask for help."
She said the charity had helped 12,000 people last year through its services, "helping them to make sustainable and positive changes in their lives".
"We know people that have been in active addictions for over 20 years who have found recovery. Recovery can happen at any time," she said.
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