Even it hasn’t happened to you, it most likely has happened to someone close to you – a break-in at your home, workplace or car.
It’s the reality, and not just here in Chatham-Kent, that repeat offenders are resorting to theft to fund their addiction to opioids or other drugs. Locally, we are above the provincial and national average for non-violent crimes, mainly due to our stats on property crimes.
The problem, however, is more than just a policing issue, or court issue or mental health or health care issue – it is an issue for our society as a whole, and the solution needs to be one that comes from all the partners in our community.
Police catch the offenders, charge them and then the courts let them go, only for them to re-offend time and time again. Why? Because they have an addiction that requires more than a night in jail to overcome.
Police officers aren’t social workers, but more and more, they are being asked to help people with addiction, mental health problems, poverty and homelessness. They don’t have the resources or the skills to take on that entire problem.
There needs to be a different approach to how we deal with addicts – from the prescription drugs they are prescribed, to their first arrest, to how the courts sort them out, to how they receive treatment, to their reintroduction to society clean and sober.
It’s a problem Chatham-Kent is aware of and all community partners are committed to addressing. If addicts or people with mental health issues could be streamed through a separate court with officials – lawyers and judges – being advised by people with expertise in treatment options, it would make a huge difference to the lives of these people who are arrested.
Instead of expecting them to somehow change overnight into law-abiding citizens, the courts could direct them to effective treatment programs and then to social workers who could help them set up a life free from past influences and people so they have a chance to turn their lives around.
Addiction can affect anyone of any social standing, any age and any culture. The same with mental illness. If we could help police by helping these people get out of the cycle they are in, imagine the community we could become. Compassion and treatment, not anger and incarceration, are the answer.