News Local

Vancouver police send early message

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

VPD has put resources into troubled youth as young as eight. (FILE PHOTO)

VPD has put resources into troubled youth as young as eight. (FILE PHOTO)

Vancouver police are focusing on youth as young as eight years old to stop them from developing a criminal lifestyle.

Amy Powter, the VPD’s youth referral co-ordinator, is a one-woman army tackling 40 active cases right now.

“(I’m) sort of the first step when they’re having contact with police — negative contact,” Powter said Thursday.

“Showing up at their homes, and waking them up sometimes when they don’t make it to school. Following them to school. Showing up when they hang out at the beach at night, and a bunch of different places.”

All her cases are referred by police. And these are typically youth that are just before the age where they can be seduced into the wrong lifestyle.

In one eight-year-old boy’s case, Powter took on the challenge after “he took a significant amount of money from his mom and he spent it on the neighbourhood,” Powter said.

That was four years ago — throughout that time Powter has followed up with the boy, learning about him and helping him deal with struggles at school.

“(Now) he’s just about finished elementary school ... he’s quite athletic now, he’s developed a love of sports and those are all things we can support.”

But it’s not easy, and not all cases are successes, she said — youth have to want to help themselves.

“Sometimes for me, success is if a youth calls me and says, ‘Hey, I’m having a hard day’ — that, to me, is a huge success because they’re connecting,” Powter said.

“Maybe they would drink before, maybe they would use, and this time, they’re making a better healthier choice.”


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