North Shore communities will receive about $1.8 million from the federal government over the next three years to create programs that will help steer youth away from crime.
Burnaby-North Seymour MP Terry Beech announced the funding Thursday at the Parkgate Community Centre’s youth drop-in in North Vancouver.
“Tragically our community has not been immune from criminal activity in the District of North Vancouver. And, you know, there is no single silver bullet to crime prevention,” said Beech.
Rather than being “tough on crime,” Beech said, “we need to be smart, we need to get to the root of the problem.”
The new funding, which covers a three-year period, is aimed at addressing underlying social conditions which contribute to crime, said Beech and “help young people make good choices.”
District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said all of the municipal governments and First Nations on the North Shore will be collaborating and hiring a co-ordinator to identify where gaps exist in current supports.
Little said he’s been told by police that crime tends to revolve around transit hubs like Phibbs Exchange and Lonsdale Quay.
Little said he’s also been told young people are being recruited into gangs and criminal groups “at younger and younger ages.”
On the other end of the scale, Little said some young adults find themselves “aging out” of teen programs with little support to take their place. “We don’t have a lot of options for 18- to 28-year-old” young men, said Little. “It’s a hard-to-access group.”
Having enough funding to pay for regular youth workers is key, said Natasha Rivard-Morton, youth co-ordinator at Parkgate Community Centre. It takes time for youth to get comfortable enough to talk to someone if they’re having problems, she said – something that isn’t likely to happen if they see a different face every time they drop in.
In addition, “there’s not a lot of indoor spaces for youth to socialize in” on the North Shore, she said.
Kids tend to congregate at the Lynn Valley McDonald’s, for instance, because “there’s no other place kids can go in Lynn Valley,” she said.
Rivard-Morton said it’s also important to be inclusive when creating programs for teens.
“Lived experience is key when you create programs for youth,” she said.
Similar funding of almost $3 million was announced for Burnaby this week.