RCMP recruiting 100 youth to help guide crime prevention work

(Herald file photo)

The RCMP is hoping to recruit youth from across Saskatchewan to help guide crime reduction priorities going forward.

On Tuesday, the police force announced it would be launching a pilot program this year to set up a youth advisory council in the province. Nine detachments will be participating, with ten youth involved at each detachment. An additional ten youth would be pulled from throughout the province.

The idea, the police force said, is to work with youth on their priorities can be considered to create effective change.

The idea came after a youth survey sent out last year received 2,750 responses from youth aged 12-17. The youth identified issues affecting them, and 70 per cent said they were interested in having positive interactions with the RCMP. The top five priorities identified in that survey were drugs, bullying, alcohol, vaping and poor driving.

“The goal really is to engage with youth so we’re hearing what they think would look best to address some of the root causes of crime in their communities,” said community program officer Laili Yazdani.

“And hearing what they have to say in terms of what they think will work in terms of crime prevention and contributing to effective change with us.”

The nine detachments participating are la Ronge, Pelican Narrows, Melfort, la Loche, Meadow Lake, North Battleford, Warman, Moosomin and Southey.

Ten additional youth will be recruited on top of that, bringing the total number involved to 100.

“Depending on what their interests are, we’ll see bout connecting them to an RCMP member in their local detachment to help them work on that initiative,” Yazdani said.

The youth will work with the RCMP to address crime and victim issues and promote awareness events such as Pink Shirt Day and National Addictions Awareness Week. They’ll be expected to volunteer a minimum of six hours a month for one school year and participate in weekly meetings, monthly virtual meetings and an annual camp with youth and mentors. They’ll receive a certificate that can be used for employment and post-secondary applications. The hope is in those meetings, they’ll be able to build off of each other’s ideas.

The program is part of the Saskatchewan RCMP’s provincial youth strategy.

On the police side, youth will be working with officers, community constables and community program officers.

A community program officer herself, Yazdani isn’t a sworn police officer. Rather, she’s a civilian member tasked with engaging with communities to support community-led crime prevention initiatives.

“our main focus is crime prevention, developing strategies and working with communities to implement effective change,” she said.

The program bears some similarities to the RCMP’s national youth leadership workshop, which is held annually in Regina and allows youth to work with RCMP members to develop an action plan to help address a community youth crime or victimization issue. The RCMP also has a national youth advisory committee, that, like the planned Saskatchewan project, works with 100 young people to discuss important issues they face and to provide input into policies, programs and strategies.

Yazdani has worked with the youth leadership workshop before.

“Youth are very creative. They know what works best and how to reach their peers, so it will be interesting to see what kind of impact they have within their communities, she said.

“It’s to work together to really support youth-led crime prevention initiatives. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

The RCMP’s goals are to engage and work with youth, hear what they indemnify as priorities and work together to implement projects and strategies.

‘From the goals and feedback we receive (we’ll) work with youth so they feel their voices are heard and they are working with us to affect effective change,” Yazdani continued.

“We are looking at youth-led crime prevention initiatives. It’s about supporting youth.”