Gangs to blame for youth crime, inner-city worker says
More preventative programs needed, according to New Directions program manager
New crime numbers show youth crime is on the rise in Winnipeg, and one woman who works with teens at risk says the city needs more preventative programs to stop it.
The Winnipeg Police Service released its 2012 statistical report on Wednesday, revealing youth crime saw a 27 per cent jump from 2011 to 2012. In the last five years, the city has seen a whopping 92 per cent increase in youth crime.
Liz Wolff is working to change that. She’s the program manager at New Directions, an agency that provides programs for youth in Winnipeg’s inner city.
"I know why [youth crime] is increasing," she said. "Because of the gang violence on the streets. It’s about turfs. It’s about selling drugs. It’s about guns."
Wolff works with young offenders to try to rehabilitate them and says her referrals from probation officers have quadrupled in the past five years.
She said there aren’t many opportunities for youth employment, and young people in Winnipeg are struggling.
"Welfare rates are horrific," she said. "One young man told me yesterday about committing B-and-E’s so he could buy diapers and formula for a new baby in the family."
Wolff added there currently aren’t enough resources to prevent youths from becoming involved in crime. She said she’d like to see the emphasis placed on preventative programming so young people can get help before they turn to crime.
And according to at least one repeat youth offender, those kinds of programs are a good idea.
CBC can’t reveal his name because he fears for his safety after severing his gang ties, but the 18 year old agreed to speak to us about what has changed for him.
He has been in and out of jail and most recently served time for armed robbery. He said things would be much worse for him without the New Directions program.
"I would have ended up either being shot on the street or in jail for the rest of my life," he said. "After you get the first taste of the inside [of a prison], it becomes a part of you, and it’s definitely not a good thing."
He said he grew up without good role models to guide his behaviour.
"I grew up without my father in my life. It was kind of hard," he said. "You got no one there to tell you what’s right from wrong."
He said without programs to offer that guidance, youth find it in the wrong places.
"You go out onto the streets, and you look for that father role or you look for that big brother role," he said.