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Fiona Simmons January 2, 2023 2 min read
Police in the UK to Look for Signs of Addiction
Many ills are ascribed to gambling and the problems that stem out of this activity - now, the police authorities in the United Kingdom are taking a closer look at the issue
Police are becoming aware of the negative effect that gambling addiction can have on individuals and how destitute and despair can push people into crime, similar to how drug and alcohol addiction can lead to unlawful behavior.
Understand and Treat, Don’t Simply Punish
This is why authorities in England and Wales are going to work actively to establish whether high-stakes gambling is actually pushing crime numbers up. Police have already allocated resources and officers are questioning suspects about their gambling habits, trying to establish a link between their criminal behavior and a dependency on gambling products.
At least ten police forces are already working to actively engage with suspects and study their gambling habits, along with drug and alcohol use. Another seven forces are also working to actively pass similar approaches towards criminals this year. This could be indicative of a major shift in how England deals with criminals, helping understand the root problem behind their behavior rather than punishing people outright.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners for Durham crime commissioner Joy Allen has urged all police authorities to begin addressing the problem in a similar matter. Allen described this as an opportunity to get to the very root of the problem and understand what drives criminal behavior, but also help those who suffer from addictive problems overcome them through early treatment and intervention.
The numbers are there to back such initiatives up. Crime driven by alcohol-related abuse and drug-related use sits at £11 billion and £13.9 billion annually respectively. Interestingly, the Public Health England report published on September 2021 puts the financial harm caused by gambling addiction at much lower numbers, at roughly £1.27 billion per year, but these numbers may be an underestimate.
Alcohol and Drugs Recognized as Issues, Gambling Is Next
Many have hailed this opportunity to shift from an oversimplified system that punishes bad behavior to one that understands it better and offers help where it can be applied with success. Matt Burton, a former assistant chief constable of Cheshire police, who helped spearhead the program, has urged for more efforts to be done in helping police officers spot the signs of addiction and be sufficiently trained to help such individuals.
The idea is not entirely alien as police officers are already receiving training on how to spot alcohol and drug addiction and intervene for the ultimate benefit of the people who suffer from it.