Vancouver police to help ‘top 20’ at-risk youth 0
"We funded the top 20, we’re going to see how it works and, of course, if it’s going well, then we’d like to expand that as well." — Vancouver Chief Const. Jim Chu, seen here in this file photo. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS FILE PHOTO)
Vancouver police are hoping to reverse past mistakes in dealing with vulnerable youth through a new program that locates 20 of the most problematic youngsters in the city to turn them away from a life of crime.
“What we were seeing was that we were getting a lot of feedback from community partners, school liaison officers, patrols that they’re seeing the same youth over and over again,” Insp. Ralph Pauw said Tuesday.
In the case of “Mo,” the young man was known to steal, shoplift or take anything that he could sell for a profit in order to survive. Police said he was headed down a road of violent crime — having avoided social workers seeking to help him numerous times — when they finally asked the youngster, what would he rather be doing?
The answer: he wanted to play soccer.
The department managed to find a donated pair of soccer cleats for “Mo” and he’s now enrolled — thanks to fundraising from police — to play soccer in Vancouver through next year.
But some past mistakes included not asking those critical questions of why youth engage in risky behaviours. That was the situation for a young girl who kept running away from a group home and was brought back by police each time.
“And somebody had the idea, why not ask that youth why she’s running away from the group home?” Pauw said. “She said, ‘Well when you leave, the person in charge of the group home sexually assaults me.’”
Pauw did not name the person who ran the group home, but said he has now been charged criminally.
Pauw said the program, however, is limited to only 20 youth at a time due to lack of resources and detectives’ workloads.
“We funded the top 20, we’re going to see how it works and, of course, if it’s going well, then we’d like to expand that as well,” said Chief Const. Jim Chu.