The importance of tackling gambling addiction as well as drugs and alcohol to prevent crime
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has welcomed plans to expand drug testing on arrest, and alcohol tagging on prison release, to prevent reoffending.
Dorset PCC David Sidwick and Durham PCC Joy Allen are the APCC’s Joint Leads for its relaunched Addictions and Substance Misuse portfolio.
Mr Sidwick said: “Police enforcement is only part of the picture to tackle addiction-related crime. Testing shoplifters and burglars for drugs when they are taken into custody means police can identify people who would benefit from drug awareness courses and treatment as part of their rehabilitation.
“And where an Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement forms part of sentencing, greater use of alcohol monitoring tags ensures those orders are compiled with. These measures help breaks the cycle of reoffending and make communities safer.”
But the APCC would also like greater recognition of the role gambling addiction plays in driving offending, and better training for police to spot the signs of gambling problems in custody suites.
Ms Allen said: “PCCs have for a long time and quite rightly shown great interest in drugs and alcohol, but I am also keen to work with colleagues to look at how we can also tackle problem gambling.
“Adult gambling is not a crime, and many people are able to enjoy gambling safely. But just like alcohol it can be highly addictive and dangerous. People may resort to burglary or theft to feed their addiction. Money worries can lead to domestic violence and abuse. If debt spirals, loan sharks and other manipulative people can blackmail or coerce vulnerable addicts into other criminal activity.
"We need to address gambling addiction where it is a driver of these crimes. We need better awareness of gambling harms, effective screening that can identify offenders with gambling problems in custody suites, training for custody officers and others and an effective response centred around evidence-based solutions.
“We also need to ensure gambling companies are playing their part in dealing with the consequences of problem gambling, for example by returning money to victims of theft.”
Mr Sidwick added: “The PHE report enabled us to see the scope of the issues around gambling-related harms for the first time, and also how those issues are intrinsically linked to other harms like drugs and alcohol.
“What is needed now is a joined-up, health-based response to all these issues. As elected leaders with the power to bring local agencies together, PCCs have a key role in tackling addiction - whether that’s drugs, alcohol, or problem gambling - and the crime that they can cause.”