Addiction to Conviction: The Impact of Drugs on Crime Rates

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Critical Thinking

THUNDER BAY – INSIGHT – Addiction to drugs and alcohol continue to be a pressing issue affecting individuals and societies world-wide. While for some in Thunder Bay and communities across Western and Northern Ontario it might seem to be isolated to our region. It is not.

Issues with addiction not only pose significant health risks, but also has far-reaching consequences for public safety and crime rates.

In Canada, about 51% of prisoners housed in federal correctional institutions have an alcohol problem. About 48% of Canadian federal prisoners experience problems with drugs (other than alcohol).

Justice Canada report, “Indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in custody relative to the general population. In 2017/18, Indigenous adults represented 4% of the Canadian adult population but accounted for 30% of provincial/territorial custody admissions and 29% of federal custody admissions. At the same time, Indigenous youth, who represent 8% of the Canadian youth population, accounted for 49% of custody admissions

“These proportions have been trending upwards for over 10 years. In 2007/08, Indigenous adults accounted for 21% of provincial/territorial custody admissions, 20% of federal custody admissions, and Indigenous youth accounted for 28% of provincial/territorial custody admissions”.

Looking at the number of people in jail and prison for addiction issues is a clear demonstration of a mixed up system. Perhaps the solution isn’t putting people in prison? Perhaps it is treating the root causes of addiction?

According to Statistics Canada, the violent crime rate in Thunder Bay declined by 15%, similar to the decline seen in Ontario (-14%) and Canada (-14%). However, the severity of violent crime in Thunder Bay increased by 37%, while there was a decline in Ontario (-11%) and Canada (-13%)

Understanding the relationship between drugs and crime is crucial for implementing effective strategies to tackle both problems. In this Insight, we delve into the connection between addiction and criminal activity, highlighting the impact of drugs on crime rates.

The Thunder Bay Police continue to deal with a growing number of calls where at the base cause is alcohol or drugs. It can be alcohol-fuelled anger leading to domestic violence, or assault. It can be home-takeovers caused in part by addiction that leads to drug dealers taking over a home. The impacts are huge and can’t simply be ignored or put aside by playing the blame game.

The Relationship between Drug Addiction and Crime:

Research consistently demonstrates a strong correlation between drug addiction and criminal behaviour. Substance abuse can lead to various types of criminal activity, including drug trafficking, property crimes (such as theft and burglary), violent offences, and driving under the influence (DUI) incidents. Individuals addicted to drugs often resort to illegal activities to fund their addiction, leading to an increase in crime rates within communities.

Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime:

The drug trade, particularly the trafficking of illicit substances, is closely intertwined with organized crime. Criminal organizations exploit the high demand for drugs, generating substantial profits and power while perpetuating violence and corruption. Drug trafficking networks have a significant impact on crime rates, fostering a range of related offences, such as money laundering, human trafficking, and arms smuggling. Disrupting these networks is crucial to reducing drug-related crime.

Property Crimes and Drug Addiction:

Drug addiction can drive individuals to commit property crimes as a means to acquire funds for their substance abuse. Research suggests a significant association between drug dependency and crimes such as theft, burglary, and robbery. Addicts may steal from friends, family, or strangers to obtain money to support their habit. The link between property crimes and drug addiction underlines the urgent need for targeted intervention programs and rehabilitation efforts.

Violence and Drug Abuse:

Drug use, particularly the consumption of certain substances like cocaine or methamphetamine, can significantly increase the risk of violent behavior. Under the influence of these drugs, individuals may exhibit heightened aggression, impaired judgment, and diminished impulse control. The relationship between drugs and violence is complex, influenced by factors such as drug purity, dosage, individual susceptibility, and environmental circumstances. Nonetheless, addressing drug addiction is crucial to mitigating the occurrence of drug-induced violent crimes.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI):

Driving while impaired by drugs is a serious public safety concern. Drug-impaired driving contributes to numerous accidents and fatalities each year. Intoxication from substances such as marijuana, opioids, or methamphetamines can impair cognitive functions, motor skills, and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents on the road. Combating drug-related DUI incidents requires a combination of education, enforcement, and prevention strategies.

The impact of drugs on crime rates is undeniable. Drug addiction serves as a catalyst for a wide range of criminal activities, from drug trafficking and organized crime to property crimes, violence, and impaired driving. Addressing drug addiction requires a comprehensive approach that includes prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation programs. By tackling the root causes of addiction and providing support to those affected, societies can make significant strides in reducing drug-related crime rates and fostering safer communities.

As once said, “It takes a village to raise a child”, the solutions to the issues with crime and addiction will be found. It will take political leadership at the federal, provincial and municipal level. The Thunder Bay Police Service has a vital role here too as the first responders on what is sadly often the aftermath of a situation. It will also require community engagement. Remember the truth is simple, we can’t have a better Thunder Bay without you!

Previous Articles:

Caught in the Crossfire: The Intersection of Addiction and Crime

The Interplay of Drugs, Substance Abuse, and Crime: A Deeper Dive

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