It takes a community to raise a child ... so are you in, or not?
I was one of 60 or 70 people in Castlegar who attended last week’s meetings on the RCMP’s Community Prevention Education Continuum (CPEC), from which I garnered information I think every community member should have.
First, though, let me point out what a truly stupid name that is …what does it even mean? The RCMP now employ communications and PR specialists. Surely they can do better than saddling such an important program with a moniker that has you nodding off before you’re even done reading four words.
And the acronym is no better – CPEC. Means nothing. Will garner exactly zero interest, attention or involvement.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where my critique of the program ends – aside from its horrific handle, the concept is flat-out brilliant.
Lots of locals remember RCMP Cpl. Marty Kooiman for his work with Castlegar’s youth. Last week, Kooiman hosted 16 meetings over the course of four days, each with a manageably small audience to allow for discussion and synergy. He explained what interventions police do now in our school systems (the DARE program being the best-known).
He then went onto explain some of the risks kids are facing (not just at-risk kids, either …ALL kids), and made clear just how enormous are the opportunities we’re missing to prevent dangerous behaviours before they begin.
Of these behaviours, many either are already criminal, or are proven to lead to criminal behaviours, or are proven to increase the likelihood of being victimized by a criminal – none of them categories in which we’d want to see our children.
So how do we prevent it?
Kooiman spelled out exactly how, inviting the people and organizations present to consider where they might be able to intervene in kids’ lives to help build the assets children need to live productive, healthy lives within the laws of the land.
Not just social service agencies, either – he described how the hockey franchise in a B.C. community got involved and ended up serving as mentors for hundreds of kids, while improving their own game in the process by providing positive reasons for the players to ease up on partying.
It was quite a pitch, and I know I’m not the only one buying in.
Thing is (and this is me talking here, not Kooiman), most career criminals don’t start out that way – they don’t think, at 10 or 12 years old, “When I grow up, I want to be in and out of prison for 50 years, if I’m lucky enough to live that long”.
Imagine being able to dramatically reduce impaired driving, substance abuse, sexual assault, drug-related crime, (not to mention the health care and policing costs they entail) by just engaging kids a tiny bit more before and during the ages when they’re first introduced to the catalyst risks that lead to all those horrors and more.
That’s pretty heady stuff.
It can be done and, thanks to Kooiman and Castlegar RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Laurel Mathew, it WILL be done, at least to some degree, here in Castlegar.
Groups are already approaching Kooiman, just one week after the information sessions, to say they want in – I know I, personally, have railroaded him into considering a monthly column for parents talking about some of the less-known risks and how to protect our kids from them.
When I first attended, I thought I had little to offer beyond enthusiastic media coverage …but it took me less than a week to see a way I could contribute. And I know the same applies to all of us – the accountant, for example, could give students a presentation detailing how much money goes up in smoke for lifetime cigarette addicts. Show them the financial incentive for making good choices.
It’s really that simple – and it means we all can participate.
And preventing crime may be Kooiman’s focus, but there’s a larger pay-off that I think is even more important. Initiatives like this one build the relationships and community ties we are so lacking in the modern world. It then creates, through community, the safety net we used to get from extended family all living in close proximity. In essence, it makes the whole community our extended family – and how cool is THAT?
The potential is mind-boggling….and far too great to extoll in a single column. You can bet the bank I’ll be talking about this subject more, and in greater detail …but I’m challenging you to think about it, too.
Can you contribute? Do you have a couple of hours a month to literally change lives? Or maybe even just some suggestions of what others can do – your thoughts and ideas have value, never doubt it.
What role can you play?
Call the detachment (250-365-7721), or call or email me …post a comment here on The Source with your ideas. Reach out the hand, and someone will grasp it.
Kooiman said he’ll start the second phase – implementation – in the New Year.
Are you in?