Youth crime reduction program up and running in North York
By Paul Hutchings, Friday, March 19, 2004
The inaugural PACT youth-crime offender-victim conference took place last month in the Metro West Youth Court in North York thanks to a recent donation from a local service group.
The Rotary Club of North York donated $5,000 to PACT, a charitable organization that deals with youth crime and court backlogs through facilitating community resolutions for acts of crime by youth in the community. The money has greatly helped start resolution conferences between offenders and victims, their families and the community. Trained PACT facilitators are present at the meeting to guide the process.
“The tide is changing for how we deal with Youth Crime in Toronto,” said Terance Brouse, Director of Community Relations, PACT Youth Crime Reduction Program. “The Attorney General and the Mayor have both shown solid leadership in terms of looking at holistic solutions for crime prevention. A major component of safe communities includes grassroots-based action plans such as the Rotary Urban Peace Initiative.”
PACT works through Crown Attorneys, probation officers and judges who offer suitable young offenders the option to participate in the program. The young offenders must adhere to PACT conditions and successfully complete the program, otherwise they will continue through the normal court system.
North York Rotary Club Director of Community Service Paul Glionna said the initial meeting is both timely and relevant to the needs of the community, especially in light of Mayor David Miller’s Community Safety Strategy, unveiled recently at a Town Hall Meeting on Guns, Gangs and Drugs.
“What is clear is that our court system can’t effectively cope with many of the young offenders it receives; they are both a drain on time and financial resources,” he explained. “By getting to them early and eroding the foundation for criminal behaviour, we give kids a chance, and we free up the court’s resources, so it can deal with the most serious cases with far greater resources.”
Other Rotary clubs in Toronto have donated to the program as well. The Forest Hill Rotarians donated $4,000 recently, allowing PACT to help heal between 10-12 victims of youth crime, and deal effectively with 10-12 young offenders by getting to them early and eroding the foundation for criminal behaviour.
“Rotary embodies grassroots change through initiatives such as Polio Plus and the Rotary Urban Peace Initiative,” said Don Cassidy, Rotary Club member and chairman of the Toronto Urban Peace Initiative. “PACT is designed to erode the foundation for criminal behaviour in our youth, and empower the victims of crime, allowing Rotary to fulfill the Urban Peace initiative from the club level.”
Brouse adds that the North York Rotarians have shown real leadership at the community level
“The truth is, most lasting change always starts with a grassroots commitment,” he said. ” The government will likely take its community safety cue from groups like Rotary, especially when it discovers the burgeoning power of service above self embodied in Rotary’s core values.”