Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2004
Source: Prince Rupert Daily News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Sterling Newspapers Ltd.
Author:  James Vassallo


Should parents find their kids out talking to police these days, fear not, 
they aren't necessarily in any trouble.

Constables Jeff Shannon and Sigrid Tveita make up the new RCMP Youth 
Intervention Team in town. And they just might keep youth out of hot water 

"We're not out to get them, we're here to help," said Const. Tveita, who 
has been with the Rupert detachment for two-and-a-half years. "Youth is a 
national priority for the RCMP."

Since November of 2003, the Youth Intervention Team has been building 
bridges with the hopes of making a discernible impact on young peoples lives.

"I've always liked a proactive rather than a reactive approach," said 
Const. Shannon, who's moving towards his seventh year as an officer in 
Rupert. "We want to enforce against the people that are supplying the drugs 
and liquor not the kids."

One of the things the team is trying to combat is the perception that when 
police show up at the high school, they're there to take someone away, said 
Shannon. "Youth generally identify adults and RCMP as coming to cause 
trouble," he said.

As such, they like to take time to recognize youth that are doing well and 
making a positive impact.

"If we do identify a youth with problems, we send them to the appropriate 
organizations," said Shannon.

For Const. Tveita the job provides the opportunity to work with youth in a 
proactive way and build relationships with the community.

"What's been rewarding for me is...approaching kids or having them approach 
us and having a positive interaction," she said.

Still, the duo has many challenges to face.

"It's always a challenge trying to identify with them," said Tveita.

Other challenges include learning the needs of youth and how they can be 
helped, she said. By surveying kids at the high schools and through 
Friendship House, the pair found that the largest problems facing the 
community were alcohol and drugs. The biggest problem after that was lack 
of a positive role model in their lives.

Another troubling issue facing the youth of Prince Rupert is prostitution.

"It's definitely going on," said Tveita. "Just because there aren't hookers 
standing on the street corner doesn't mean there's no problem."

The team identifies operational goals and pursues them on the street. Last 
week saw them crack down on adults bootlegging liquor for kids resulting in 
a 24-year-old suspect being charged for providing alcohol to a minor, a 
potential $500 fine.

"We try and cut it off before it comes to the kids," said Tveita.

The pair identify youth at risk now in the hopes of preventing a life of 
crime later. They also fulfill the role of mentor and positive role model.

"We want to try and reach the kids that are maybe on the fence," said Tveita.

After spending the last few months connecting with local teenagers, the 
team is starting to get calls.

"When we first went into the schools it was like oil and water," said 
Const. Shannon.

The schools have also noticed big improvements in some of their more 
troubled students, he said.

Still, there is an extensive educational process that must go on with 
students, teachers, parents and civic leaders.

"It takes a community to raise a child," said Shannon. "Each one of us can 
play a role."

And the Youth Intervention Team isn't immune to picking up a thing or two 
from the public.

"The youth are educating us every day," he said.

They are also hoping to gain greater exposure to First Nations history and 
culture to better address the needs of Native students.

The two general duty officers went through an application before their 
selection to the team. The necessary qualifications included demonstrating 
a capacity to deal with youth and the ability to develop a good 
relationship with the community.

Shannon and Tveita are talking to youth and dropping in on the high schools 
from 8 to 5 every Tuesday through Friday. Every second weekend, they work 
the night shift and address all the problems that come along with teenagers 
and partying - from drugs and alcohol to vandalism.

The Youth Intervention Team can be reached at 622-8912 or 622- 8913. They 
can also be found in the Community Policing Access Centre on the ground 
floor at the back of City Hall.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom