This time last year or even last month, four Williams Lake youths were most likely at home playing video games on a Friday or Saturday night. Not these days. The four are now volunteers with community policing’s Citizens on Patrol program.
So far they’ve done security for a school dance, helped set up the Santa Claus Parade, patrolled Midnight Madness shopping, helped with Halloween festivities, where they almost “froze to death” but were grateful for hot chocolate, and checked the expiry dates on license plates.
Three of the youths sat down with the Tribune last Thursday to talk about the experience.
All of them attend Graduating Routes Other Ways (G.R.O.W.) and are considering a career in policing.
They’ve also applied to attend the youth RCMP academy that will take place in Williams Lake for one week in March.
Dyllan Wall, 17, said the experience is “interesting” and the experience is making him much more aware of his surroundings.
Mitchell Bilkhu, also 17, agreed and said through the work he’s getting to know the city really well.
“Some areas you never go into, but now I am. Even outside of patrolling I’m becoming used to checking license plates and seeing if people have left valuables in their cars.”
For Chris Dow, 17, it’s also been a way of “growing up” after previously getting into a bit of trouble.
“I’m learning new skills and to be more mature,” he said.
Co-ordinator Bob McIntosh, a retired policeman, said working with the youths has energized him.
“They are learning leadership skills, life skills and gaining a heads up in respect to what they want to do when they grow up. They keep a police notebook, just like a policeman does. They communicate with the police and are very good at that,” McIntosh said. “A lot of the older C.O.P. members are “quite shy,” but not these guys.”
Every one of the youths has signed a confidentiality agreement, McIntosh explained, adding he has received loads of thanks from the youths’ parents.
“The parents of Jason, our First Nations student, bring him for his shift and then pick him up right afterwards every time. That kinds of support is great.”
McIntosh has also received support from G.R.O.W. and said he visits there regularly to see if any more students are interested in participating in the program.
“They have to keep their school work up, that’s the primary reason why they are there,” he added.
Williams Lake has the only C.O.P. program in the province engaging youth, safer communities co-ordinator Dave Dickson said.
The public has noticed the youths and in their first month the students say they’ve been treated with the upmost respect.
Inspector Warren Brown said he was at the Santa parade with his family in his role as a father and observed the youths in action.
“They were very well organized and appeared to be very knowledgeable and confident in their duties, “ Brown recalled.
“The contact they had with pedestrian traffic and the motoring public was professional, courteous, and efficient. I have no doubt they were well prepared by Bob McIntosh but in my role that day outside of my profession, I was very impressed with how they presented and conducted themselves.”
In his role as the inspector Brown said he was equally impressed that Williams Lake has such an engaged and committed pool of volunteers.
“Regardless of their age or background, they go the extra mile to make our community safe.”
“A taxi driver thanked us and brought us coffee and cookies one night,” Bilkhu said. He was also surprised by how much contact they actually have with the local RCMP.
To volunteer students need to be 16, have a criminal record check, and be interested in some sort of policing, security or probation career.
“We think it’s a great way to go. These life skills are going to help them throughout no matter what they do,” McIntosh said.