Students from the Social Justice 12 class at Alberni District Secondary School appeared before Port Alberni city council earlier this month to ask the city to pay for a dedicated youth liaison officer from the RCMP.
The Port Alberni RCMP branch used to have a youth liaison officer, but he has been re-assigned other duties within the department, and the high school has been without a regular officer for some months.
The students did the math, and determined the monthly cost to taxpayers for a full-time youth liaison officer would be less than a medium cup of coffee purchased at Tim Hortons—about $1.80. They have made the request as a response to rising youth crime in the city.
Many people who weighed in on the issue for our recent question of the week questioned the added cost and benefit to having an officer in this position. Some wondered why an officer couldn’t simply be designated the youth liaison officer. This is one solution, but it’s obviously not working—the officer’s duties are among the first to be cut.
Funding a youth officer, or designating officer time to liaise with the high school is not a decision to take lightly. It also isn’t a decision that can easily be made with an outside-the-box idea, as policing costs are dictated by the federal government.
Reinstating the youth liaison officer position, or hiring one dedicated to the position is only part of the challenges facing policing in the Alberni Valley. The same night students stood before council, the city’s CAO pointed out council is looking at cutting one RCMP officer position in 2019. Yet, RCMP Insp. Brian Hunter has said the Alberni detachment has a high volume of calls.
Perhaps a youth liaison officer isn’t the answer. However, we support the students’ endeavour. If the youth are asking for a youth liaison officer, we need to listen.
—Alberni Valley News