Program pairs Police and youth

Toronto Police unveiled a new initiative to assist at-risk youth in the city: The program is called the Youth in Policing Initiative (YPI) and is offered to students in such neighbourhoods such as Malvern, Jane-Finch, Regent Park, Jamestown and south Parkdale. YPI students will be paid $10.90 an hour and the program will run from June 30 to Aug, 22.A friend introduced Kyode Fatoba, a former YPI student, to the program. He was placed into a job at the Forensic Identification Services.

“I got the opportunity to learn about finger printing and about some chemicals and what they do and what they are used for,” he said. I also learned some skills on how to take people for tours at the FIS building.”

His responsibilities included checking the police crime papers.

Besides all the hard work, students had their fun too. Kyode Fatoba, who used to be too shy in front of large crowds, confronted his fears by reading a three-minute poem to 100 other youths.

“Everyone remained quiet listening to my voice alone until I was done. Then they all cheered and clapped for me. It felt great,” he said.

Danielle Francis, the program coordinator said that the program is now going into its third year.

“Youth in policing is a component of the Youth in policing is a component of the Youth Opportunities Strategy by the Ontario Government. Dalton McGuinty developed the strategy and announced it in early 2006. It was in response to the ‘Year of the Gun,’ which saw a record increase in homicides and gun violence,” Danielle Francis said.

According to Danielle Francis, 100 students are hired each year to do administrative work and help with community events. They are then assigned to one of 17 divisions and 30 other support units such as the marine unity, forensic identification services, the mounted unit or the community mobilization unit.

Danielle Francis said in the first two years of the program police received 1,000 applications and 650 in the second year. This year they expect 2,500 applications.

YPI students do mostly administrative work, such as filing, photocopying and answering phones. Community service includes graffiti removal, community barbeques and crime prevention brochure handouts.

“The youth are not involved in any dangerous police work and are not on the streets fighting crime,” Danielle Francis said.

Sgt. Scott Gilbert of 13 division works with the YPI youth. He explained that while many police stations hire two students every summer, 13 division takes in 3 students.

“The program is great because it allows us to give them exposure to many different career opportunities that are available with our organization,” he said.

Sgt. Gilbert said that the young people take part in community events, such as Salsa on St. Clair, Corso Italia and the Caribana parade. Students also get the chance to assist mechanics with vehicle maintenance and washing boats.

“Based on the success of the Toronto Police Services, the Government of Ontario has expanded this initiative to Ottawa, London, Hamilton, Thunderbay, and Windsor,” Danielle Francis said.