HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Learning Without Fear
Pubdate: Sat, 13 Apr 2002
Source: Peace Arch News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Peace Arch News
Author: Tracy Holmes
Bookmark: (Youth)


Every high school has students who are scared to come to school, those who 
take or sell drugs daily, and those who pack weapons alongside their notebooks.

In some schools, the problem is barely noticeable. In others, it's 
virtually overwhelming.

Degree of crime, intimidation or harassment in schools is irrelevant.

Regardless, it doesn't belong, interfering with its presence in the right 
of every youth to go to and from, and learn, in an environment free of 
crime and violence.

Wednesday, members of Earl Marriott Secondary's PEACE Group heard one 
approach to curbing problems in their school from a Port Alberni contingent 
that's seen a phenomenal turnaround on their turf as a result of 
implementing it.

It's a program South Surrey RCMP are striving to pilot on the Peninsula.

Student Crime Stoppers was introduced to Alberni District Secondary School 
two years ago by Const. Bruce Nicholson, the area's sole crime prevention 

The move was in response to rampant crime at the school that drew police to 
attend problems at the school up to five times daily-everything from drugs 
and fights, to weapons and vandalism.

Nicholson moved into an office in the school, and set to establish the 
student-driven, student-empowered program.

Like Crime Stoppers, it provides students an avenue to report tips 
anonymously, without fear of being stigmatized or labelled.

Issues are dealt with internally when possible; police are only brought 
into the picture on more serious matters.

Student Crime Stoppers members are ambassadors for the program. It's worked 
like a charm.

"Within one year, the incidence of crime dropped 50 per cent," Nicholson said.

"We're about 97 per cent crime-free right now."

He credits the results to creation of an environment intolerant of, and on 
the lookout for, those who cross the line.

"We're trying to create a sense of paranoia...if these bad dudes think 
somebody might call, maybe, just maybe they won't commit that crime."

So successful-and fun-is the program, participation at ADSS has exploded 
from four students to 34 since its inception.

Certain components are crucial to success.

Members have come to view Nicholson as a fellow student, and even a friend.

It's a point Nicholson said is invaluable-if students see him as 'just a 
cop', he won't have the same trust or ability to forge relationships with them.

Without those, the program is lost.

"If I can break down the barriers with them, I can build the Berlin wall," 
he said in an earlier interview, noting school liaison officers here would 
have to do the same if they take it on.

It's a worthwhile effort.

"If you have the confidence of the kids, you can do anything in a high school."

Having school administrators on side is also key.

"If you don't have the students and the principal on board, you're never 
going to succeed in having a viable Student Crime Stoppers program."

Students fundraise throughout the school year through the likes of car 
washes and pizza sales.

They participate in safety forums, and promote involvement in the program 
to students in their feeder schools.

They're also rewarded for their hard work and commitment.

Aside from pizza every five weeks, from the outset, Nicholson's taken his 
students to provincial, and even international, Crime Stoppers conferences.

The first trip was to Kelowna, where students mingled with about 100 others 
around the province who wanted to, or were, making a difference in their 
school with the program.

In February, he took 13 students to a larger conference in Houston, Texas. 
Another six went to a police and youth networking session in Cultus Lake 
last month.

While fun is definitely a motivator, ADSS students who've signed on say 
they're also sticking with it because it's working.

Elizabeth Olson, in Grade 11, joined Student Crime Stoppers last September 
because she heard from a friend that it was fun. She was also fed up with 
theft at the school, and has noticed a difference in the problem since 
becoming involved.

"You see a lot less stuff going on," she said.

"There used to be so many fights, and now, I haven't seen any."

"The drug thing's kind of gone," added Grade 12 Kelsey Linning.

While EMS vice-principal Bea Hadiken said Thursday she was impressed with 
the concept and recognized the value such an organized program can have in 
helping students and families feel safe in and around school, the program 
was a tougher sell for some members of the PEACE Group.

The students already have their own phone line established to report 
bullying or other problems in the school.

They questioned whether Student Crime Stoppers could be moulded to deal 
with racism and discrimination, two issues they see as a more prevalent 
problem at EMS.

Nicholson, passionate about the initiative, assured them it could.

"We can't change the world or the bad decisions someone makes, but we can 
make a difference," he told the students.

"The whole premise of the program is do the right thing."

Port Alberni's Student Crime Stoppers program is one of a number 
established throughout B.C., none of which are up and running in Surrey, 
the province's largest school district.

South Surrey RCMP Const. Janet Danyluk is hoping to change that.

Hooked on the concept after meeting Nicholson at a 2000 conference, she 
said Thursday police here "absolutely" would like to see it take off in at 
least one of the area's local high schools.

The benefits are difficult to ignore.

"There's lot of communities with the program and they've had nothing but 
success stories with it," she said.
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