POLICE are winning the war on the problem of drug-users committing crime to fund their habits.

Local officers are taking part in an Essex Drug and Alcohol Team county-wide scheme aimed at identifying and helping hard-drug addicts to break the destructive cycle.

And new figures show the project is helping an estimated 100 offenders a month to get crucial treatment - way above the government target of 33 a month.

Inspector Paul Howell, Essex Police's lead officer on drug and alcohol misuse, said: “In the past, the police very much worked in isolation to address persistent offenders who committed crime to fund drugs.

“We needed a way of bringing all agencies ­together to identify the problems quickly and appropriately in order to find long-term and, more importantly, sustainable partnership solutions.

“A tremendous amount of work is now going on among our many partners and it is proving to be a successful partnership response to crime reduction.”

Clive Emmett, manager of the drug intervention programme, said: “The next phase of the project is to introduce fast-track prescribing, in which addicts can be seen within 48 hours and given alternative, prescribed drugs. This will be a major advance in changing the lives of class A users.

“We have had many success stories since the scheme started and we are getting more and more referrals from police officers.

“We tell clients they have got to face their ­punishment but we will walk alongside them ­ without leading them by the hand.

“It’s all about helping people, giving them fresh hope for the future and reducing crime. We are extremely proud of what we have achieved so far.”