Today, Community Services Committee received the Edmonton Police Service’s 2016-2018 Business Plan. Much of the plan focuses on their three year plan to catch up with Edmonton's rapid growth, and on building a modern, responsive, and prevention-focused force. I raised two issues at the meeting that I think are particularly important in terms of reducing calls for service and containing resource needs.
The first was to increase focus on youth mental health. At-risk youth who experience poverty and instability at home are much more likely to commit offences, but also can suffer from depression, addiction, or other mental illnesses that make breaking out of cycles of poverty and crime even more difficult. By bringing in proactive programming to help counsel at-risk youths, perhaps we can help them to build the confidence they need to form a new pattern for their lives, one that may be different from most other people they know.
This programming would complement the exemplary work that is being done by agencies like YESS, the Mennonite Centre, and Native Counselling Services of Alberta, among many others, to provide supports to vulnerable youths. The Edmonton Police Service has been partnered for some time with many of these agencies, but providing more resources and organizational focus to this type of proactive engagement can only help to elevate the work that is already being done.
Literacy is integral to success, but many at-risk and immigrant youth struggle to find support and resources to help them develop literacy skills, especially as they get older. By actively engaging with those who may have fallen through the cracks at school, we can help youth to develop their skills and prepare them to become active parts of our communities.
These two ideas are great in and of themselves, and there doesn’t ever need to be another reason to help kids. But these two concepts would also help us reduce the strain on our police force as the City continues to expand.
The Chief of Police identified that there needs to be better coordination of resources that are already in place to start really addressing the issues of youth mental health and literacy. But the acknowledgement of the role that the police force can play in combatting these issues is an important first step.
With the injury of one of our officers in the line of duty just this week, we’ve all been reminded of the important role that the police force has in creating and sustaining our communities. Edmontonians owe our police officers a great deal of gratitude for their willingness to face the most challenging situations. I look forward to witnessing the evolution of our great police force as they adapt to the needs of our City.