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Kingston police team up with Youth Diversion to try to limit youth contact with police

Kingston police have teamed up with a non-profit to try to offer more social support for youth in crisis.
Kingston police have teamed up with a non-profit to try to offer more social support for youth in crisis. CKWS

Kingston police and the Youth Diversion program are working together on a new initiative to help youth limit their interactions with the criminal justice system.

This diversion program is meant to support local youth from the ages of 12 to 17, and is a collaborative effort between the Kingston police and Youth Diversion.

Read more: New charges laid against Kingston youth suspected of terrorism-related activity

In a release from both organizations, Quigley noted that youth have been especially affected by the changes in social service options, and the isolation brought on by the pandemic.

“We do see young people falling through the cracks now, primarily because of COVID-19, people are being shuttered and locked inside, it is taking a toll, so I think we are going to see a lot more incidents of people needing support from our social service sector.”

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Because of changes seen in social service support, Kingston police noted that they have been “last line of support” for youth in distress, often leading to criminal consequences for youth perhaps in need of other types of support. The program is meant to change that.

“We’re trying to treat things with a social lens and not a justice lens,” Shawn Quigley, executive director of Youth Diversion, said.

Click to play video 'Youth Diversion program receives a $339k grant to help at risk youth' Youth Diversion program receives a $339k grant to help at risk youth
Youth Diversion program receives a $339k grant to help at risk youth – Mar 29, 2019

He says the new program is intended to hold youth local accountable for their actions through a restorative approach, with rehabilitative and reintegration programs that either preempt interactions with police, or interrupt the usual criminal course of action after being charged.

One way of doing that is allowing families the option to report incidents, such as mental health issues, substance use and running away from home, to Youth Diversion through an online tool, rather than calling 911.

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“The really unique thing is the online reporting tool that the Kingston police have put together to help families who call the police for situations that are not criminal in nature,” Quigley said.

The ultimate goal is limiting local youth’s interactions with police. Youth Diversion will be partnering with Kingston police’s Community Oriented Response and Engagement (CORE) unit and working with force’s youth programs officer to implement the intitative.

Data will be collected throughout to be used for analysis on the effectiveness of the program.

The initiative will begin on Sept. 1 and run until March 2021.