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Gambling, Fraud and Skateboarding – it’s been another interesting week in Dorset.

This week sees the publication of the Government’s white paper on the future of the Gambling Act.

As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) joint lead for Addictions and Substance Misuse, I have added my voice to the debate in asking the Government to toughen up regulations on the gambling industry to help protect communities and vulnerable people from gambling-related harm.

I want to see improved powers for councils to determine where and how many gambling premises can open in their areas. Local authorities currently have limited powers to prevent the opening of gambling premises even if there are already others nearby or there are reasons why it may not be an appropriate location.

The Local Government Association is calling for councils to be given more legal flexibility and power to approve or reject applications for local gambling premises depending on local circumstances, taking into consideration the interests of the local economy, community impact and views of local residents.

I am also concerned about growing reports of people who are vulnerable to gambling-related harm being targeted with free bets and other marketing offers when they are trying to stop gambling and that is why I am supporting the call for the government to take steps to reduce the volume of advertising and marketing offers that are routinely made available via television and online.

I know that people can commit serious crimes to fund their gambling addiction and that problem gambling causes a great deal of harm to individuals and families across the UK, and so it is vital that there is support is available to those affected and, where the industry has acted irresponsibly, it is held to account for its actions.

On my website this week, you will find a free fraud flyer for you to download!

This whole idea came about when I met with Age UK, when I was on the campaign trail. They had identified a need for easy-to-read leaflet for older people who are nervous about being victims of fraud. The aim was to explain the types of fraud, what to look out for, where to get help, and how to report it - this flyer does just that.

I want to thank partners from Dorset Police, national Cyber-crime specialists, Citizens Advice and Dorset and BCP Trading Standards who have all worked with Age UK and my office, to produce this flyer. I hope you will share the link to it, print a copy of it for a family member or a friend and if it helps prevent just one person from being scammed, then it will have done its job!

Locally, this week, I have been meeting people across the Weymouth area to see Operation Relentless funding in action, to meet with a local Councillor in Littlemoor to discuss policing, communities and youth, as well as giving a talk to the Over 50’s Club at the Park Area Community Centre on my Police and Crime Plan.

But I want to tell you a bit more about finding myself in a skatepark to see first-hand how a local group are using grant funding from my office, from the Op Relentless Fund to make a difference and keep young people away from becoming involved in anti-social behaviour.

I have to say that I was taken aback by the skill and dedication needed to ride a board and I was also really impressed with the scheme my office has help fund. The scheme running at the skatepark allows local children free skateboard lessons, which may not sound that important or maybe perceived a soft option - but when it comes to preventing the boredom that often leads to youths getting involved in ASB, I believe it’s important to create options, provide alternatives and give guidance and support.

The grant funding to Weymouth Skatepark has allowed children, some with special educational needs, some who are at cross-roads when it comes to committing crime and ASB to learn a new skill, to be in a safe space, to be part of an organised and positive group which aims to encourage them to become part of a wider supportive community group, to stay safe and most of all to stay out of trouble – all of which can only be viewed as a positive.

I am determined to bring forward practical solutions to Dorset’s problems, to act and to help ‘fix the future’ and not just leave it to others.

David Sidwick

Police and Crime Commissioner

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