Feds pledge $2M for Saskatoon youth crime prevention program

The federal government announced $2 million in National Crime Prevention Strategy funding for Strengthening Families Saskatoon, a new program aimed at helping youth at risk and their families.

Strengthening Families Saskatoon aims to steer young people away from crime with the help of their families

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale at Saskatoon police headquarters for a funding announcement. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

The federal government announced money on Wednesday for a new crime prevention program in Saskatoon aimed at helping youth at risk and their families.

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement at Saskatoon Police Service headquarters Wednesday afternoon.

He said $2 million in National Crime Prevention Strategy funding will go toward Strengthening Families Saskatoon, a program that focuses on family relationships and teaches youth social skills like effective communication and anger management.

The lack of those skills can make life difficult for many teens, said Goodale.

"Those are the kinds of things that can be the very beginning of pushing a young person off course, where they get into a dangerous kind of behaviour that spirals downwards," he said.

No such thing as 'a bad kid': police chief

Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill said he expects the program will succeed because it offers help not only to youth but to their families as well.

"I don't think there's any such thing as a bad kid," he said.

"I've often said I don't think anyone's born with a knife in their hand, thinking they're going to do a crime. They're a product of their environment."

He said Saskatoon has one of the highest crime rates in Canada right now and he doesn't expect this program will make an immediate dent in that, but the program is looking toward the future.

'I don't think there's any such thing as a bad kid,' said Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

By preventing youth from getting involved in or escalating criminal activity, it will result in a reduction in crime down the line, he said.

Lois Preete, program co-ordinator for Strengthening Families Saskatoon, said the program began in the U.S. in the 1980s and has been proven effective elsewhere.

A website is in the works and they plan to begin accepting referrals to the program soon. They expect referrals from various partner agencies such as health and social services, schools, police or from families themselves.

The program is expected to help up to 300 youth over a four- or five-year period.