Thursday, June 23, 2011

Justice Minister Andrew Swan and Ka Ni Kanichihk Executive Director Leslie Spillet, speaking about expanded initiatives to help keep vulnerable kids out of gangs and lives of crime

June 23, 2011


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Turnabout and Lighthouses Offer Alternatives to Crime, Complement Increased Number of Police Officers
As a complement to increasing the number of police on the streets, the province is expanding the successful Lighthouses and Turnabout programs to offer positive alternatives for young people who might be lured into crime or joining gangs, Justice Minister Andrew Swan announced today.
“These programs help children and youth make good choices and build healthier, safer lives,” said Swan.  “Lighthouses and Turnabout make young people less vulnerable to negative influences, giving them positive alternatives to using drugs and alcohol, joining gangs or dropping out of school.”
Lighthouses provide funding to schools, friendship centres and other community facilities to provide free, supervised recreational, educational or social after-hours activities organized by and for youth.
Five new Lighthouse sites bring the total number to 71.  They are:
  • St. Theresa Point,
  • Sandy Bay First Nation,
  • Sioux Valley First Nation,
  • Wabowden, and
  • Elwick Village in Winnipeg.
The province is investing $49,000 to develop a wraparound pilot project for children and families referred to Turnabout.  The wraparound process will be used to support children with complex needs and their families by developing individualized care plans that are community-based and culturally appropriate, the minister said. 
As well, the province will provide $125,000 to Ka Ni Kanichihk, a community-based social service provider, to pilot a mentorship program for Turnabout children.  Trained mentors will spend time with a child and their family, connecting them with positive alternatives such as culturally based supports and activities, school-based supports, free recreational activities offered by the City of Winnipeg and other community resources.
Under the current federal Youth Criminal Justice Act (and the previous Young Offenders Act), children under 12 can’t be charged with committing a crime.  Therefore, the Manitoba government created Turnabout as the only provincewide program in Canada that works to get young people who are too young to be charged back on the right track said Swan.  Turnabout operates with the co‑operation of police agencies who notify the program when someone under 12 breaks the law. 
Before Turnabout, there was no standardized way to track or deal with children under the age of 12 who were coming into conflict with the law.  Turnabout provides the community, law enforcement, child welfare and school systems with a consistent way to deal with children too young to be charged for acts that might otherwise be prosecuted.  It helps support families while preventing a child from having further involvement with police, which improves community safety, said the minister.
Since its launch in 2002 to May 31, 2011, Turnabout has received 1,899 referrals for incidents ranging from shoplifting, mischief and arson to assaults, break-ins and weapon offences.  A review of children involved in Turnabout from 2003 to 2010, showed almost 80 per cent of the children assisted by the program had no further clashes with the law after turning 12.
Lighthouses and Turnabout are part of Manitoba’s youth gang reduction strategy, a three-pronged approach that balances prevention with investments in improved policing and tougher laws.  Swan said, since 1999, the province has launched many anti-gang initiatives including:
  • providing funding for police, which has more than doubled since 1999 to $126 million including support for 777 RCMP officers across the province, 153 officers in Winnipeg and 14 officers in Brandon;. 
  • supporting GRASP (the Gang Response and Suppression Plan), which intensively enforces court-ordered bail and probation conditions of certain high-risk adult offenders believed to be at the core of many violent incidents;
  • adding three new police officers to expand the School Resource Officer Program by September 2012 for a total of 12 covering 17 high schools and 68 elementary and junior-high schools;
  • increasing by 165 per cent the budget for prosecutions since 1999 including the addition of 58 Crown prosecutors with another 43 to be added by 2016;
  • establishing a gang unit in prosecutions, resulting in 1,404 convictions and guilty pleas since November 2003; 
  • providing support to the Manitoba Integrated Organized Crime Task Force;
  • establishing a provincial witness protection program; and
  • establishing a gang intelligence unit in Manitoba Corrections.
The province is also investing $1.5 million over three years to support the City of Winnipeg’s recreation facilities to enhance programming in the inner city, Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux announced today.
“This commitment of provincial funding will help keep city-run recreation facilities in the core area open for longer hours, offering young people a safe environment for healthy and creative fun right in their own neighbourhoods,” said Lemieux.
The investment will help enhance programming in several neighbourhoods including north and south Point Douglas/Lord Selkirk Park, Centennial/West Alexander/Central Park, West Broadway/River Osborne and William Whyte/Dufferin.
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