Those working with at-risk youth in Regina are shocked, but not entirely surprised at the high crime rates being reported for teens in Saskatchewan.
The latest numbers available from Statistics Canada shows youth crime rates in Saskatchewan for car thefts, break and enters, mischief and assaults are much higher than the national average.
“I think we’re doing the best with what we have,” said Kim Sutherland, founding CEO of the Street Culture Kidz Project Inc. “But what we have might be the problem.”
Sutherland says there are a number of challenges facing groups like his that work with at-risk youth, including a lack of public knowledge and outcry, an uncoordinated approach to helping the youth, and the funding system.
“The competitive nature of our funding process is part of the problem,” Sutherland explained as he spoke about how his group applies for funding through a Request for Proposals process.
“So we’re applying for funds, competing with our neighbours. And then whoever is awarded the funds then has to somehow harness back in the energy of the competitors and create some sort of partnership.”
That partnership isn’t always established, and Sutherland says that creates an odd approach to trying to help someone who may have a myriad of issues.
Sutherland sees the need to work separately from the government, saying governments often seek short-term success. Sutherland says the goal should be to help future generations. He points to the Saskatchewan Children’s and Youth Advocate who is able to do successful work at arm’s-length of the government.
“Remove the funding processes from government control, and place it in a third-party entity that has expertise in community development.”
Even with the challenges, Sutherland says groups like his are still motivated to do their work – as are other groups.
“(The crime statistics are) somewhat of an indicator that there is lots of work to do in the area where we’re working,” said Lance Dudar, coordinator of the Regina Intersectoral Partnership (TRiP), of the numbers.
TRiP expands the 11 and Under Initiative from the Regina Police Service to also help at-risk teens aged 12 to 18. Dudar said while the program aims to prevent crime and impact future crime statistics, they also hope to see improvements in mental health and social services numbers.
Dudar says there are a lot of factors that come into play as they try to help kids and teens avoid a path towards crime. Success comes from family support, getting the child involved in their school and community, as well as things like social activity and support for mental health.
Since the 11 and Under Initiative began, the Regina Police Service has seen a reduction in youth crime in the city. From late 2010 to 2014, that reduction averaged to 5.9 per cent.