Students offer council tips on cutting crime
APRIL CUNNINGHAM, TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL
SAINT JOHN - Setting up a safe injection site, a youth shelter and increasing access to guidance counsellors are just some of the ideas a group of high schools students have for decreasing crime in Saint John.
Six students from a Saint John High School law class presented the ideas to common council Monday night.
Over the past few months, the class, taught by Adam McKim, heard from various guest speakers including the police chief and the executive director of AIDS Saint John. The class split into groups of two and came up with a comprehensive list - which six young women presented to council.
They suggested increasing affordable housing and improving relationships between law enforcers and those who break the law.
"Perhaps just some off-duty police officers shooting some hoops with kids after school," said Victoria Gillan. "People would be less likely to break the law if they have that bond."
Although the city has the Teen Resource Centre, and several churches offer teen programs, Niki Shaw said it's not enough.
"Sometimes teens feel like they have no one to talk to," she said.
More guidance counsellors trained to deal with sensitive teen topics would be helpful, she said.
So would the establishment of a youth shelter for the estimated 45 homeless youths in the city who have nowhere to turn.
Mental illness is often linked to crime, but funding doesn't add up, said Sydney Logan.
While 15 per cent of disease in Canada is linked to mental illness, it only receives 5.5 per cent of health-care dollars, she said, citing figures from the Canadian Mental Health Association.
With a high rate of drug addiction in the city, another way to reduce crime is to improve addition services, the students said.
Emily Arnold said the city could benefit from a safe injection site, which would provide a clean environment for addicts to inject drugs and get access to health care.
The city's methadone program, which dispenses the drug to opiate addicts at St. Joseph's Community Health Centre, could have improved hours and access, said Katherine Miller.
Drug prevention programs for youth could also be improved.
"More extensive programs should be offered in higher grades because students have at that time been exposed to drugs," Miller said.
It was a point Coun. Gary Sullivan - the principal of Millidgeville North School - picked up on.
"What would your response be to members of society saying, 'We don't want kids to be exposed to that?' " he asked, referring to discussions of drugs in school.
"A lot of people see it as a taboo subject, but it's an issue a lot of us are facing," Shaw said, her classmates nodding in agreement.
The more youths that highlight the need for such discussions will help encourage schools to develop programs, Sullivan said.
Mayor Ivan Court thanked the students for presenting their ideas and said he would pass them on to officials with the province.