Working to steer kids away from crime in Coquitlam

When it comes to steering their child away from crime, says a local restorative justice advocate, and preventing a child from getting involved in destructive behaviours may be as simple as opening the lines of communication.

“I’m an optimist, I think each and every individual can most definitely be helped and having the right support in place is absolutely vital,” said Gurinder Mann, executive director of CERA Society, which operates in New Westminster and the Tri-Cities.

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With several years working to resolve criminal cases involving young people between the ages of 12 and 25, Mann has identified parenting strategies that work to divert children away from crime.

Although youth crime is relatively rare, the cases are often high profile in the media. A recent swatting case involving a Coquitlam youth awaiting sentencing for 23 offences of extortion, public mischief and criminal harassment, and two stabbings in Whistler on the May long weekend involving teens, may have parents and guardians wondering what more they can do to keep their kids close and away from trouble.

Mann believes CERA can help. His organization handles about 40 to 50 cases referred by Crown counsel, RCMP and New Westminster and Port Moody police each year to resolve issues between youth and their victims. Typically, the young person comes to understand the harm they caused, and makes amends, which could range from a simple written apology to paying for damages.

But Mann said he’d rather see young people diverted from criminal activity, and to that end his organization is hosting two meetings early next month, in New Westminster and Coquitlam, to provide parents with tips and strategies for supporting their kids.

The first will be Wednesday, June 3 between 7 and 8:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Coquitlam city hall (3000 Guildford Way) and the second will be held Thursday, June 4 in the library at New Westminster secondary school (835-8th St., New Westminster) between 7 and 8:30 p.m.

“We would like to see as many parents who are experiencing difficulties and who are tackling youth crime in a household to attend, they can benefit from this the most,” said Mann, noting that the forums are free and no registration is required.

For more information about CERA, visit www.cerasociety.org.

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