THAMES Valley Police have recorded hundreds of gambling-related crimes over two years, figures show.
Online gambling has exploded in recent years – the Gambling Commission estimates there were 13.4 million gamblers in Britain in 2021, up from 12.1 million the previous year.
While the vast majority of gamers do so responsibly, “problematic” gambling has been linked to a range of crimes such as theft, assault and criminal damage, according to figures obtained through public access requests. information from the penal reform charity the Howard League.
They show that 486 gambling-related crimes were recorded by Thames Valley Police in 2019 and 2020.
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The charity asked forces across England how many crimes had been marked with the word ‘game’ during this period.
Lord Goldsmith KC, chairman of the Gambling Crime and Harm Commission, said that despite a growing body of evidence linking gambling and crime, “too little is being done within the gambling system. criminal justice to solve the problem”.
Identifying gambling addiction and providing people with the right support and information are key to mitigating the harm caused by gambling, the Howard League said.
It found that while Thames Valley Police were not systematically screening offenders on their gambling habits, they were showing some awareness and activity on the impacts of gambling at the time of the freedom of information request in spring 2021. .
According to the charity’s report, four in 10 forces are not taking enough action against the impacts of gambling, and only two in 10 regularly screen people in detention on their gambling habits.
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Dominique Webb, head of programs at gambling support charity Gamcare, said the link between gambling-related harm and crime is “increasingly clear”.
She said the charity has trained staff in the criminal justice system on how to identify people with gambling addiction and refer them to treatment.
Last September, Public Health England estimated that there were more than 2.2 million people who could be classified as problem gamblers or at risk of addiction.
The most common gambling-related offense in Thames Valley was violence against the person, with 257 charges in 2019 and 2020.
Of the nearly 3,000 crimes recorded by the 37 police forces that provided data across England and Wales, it was the most common type of offence, with 1,291 incidents.
Next come theft, with 688 incidents, and criminal damage, with 206.
Several police forces did not submit usable data, including Met Police and West Midlands Police – the two largest forces in England – Cumbria, Dyfed-Powys, Hampshire, Lancashire, Staffordshire and Wiltshire.
Chief Constable Steve Jupp, head of the National Police Chiefs Council for Serious and Organized Crime, said the police force was working with various groups to improve how police handle gambling.
“It is important that police services recognize the signs early when dealing with someone through the criminal justice process so that the best support is offered to people with gambling addictions,” he said. declared.
“We recognize that there is still work to be done in this area and are bringing together best practices from strengths in early detection of drug addicts, offering the appropriate support and guidance so that they can seek further help.”