A total of 185 community groups, local governments and policing agencies are sharing $5.5 million to help reduce youth involvement in gangs, prevent violence against women and children, and further crime prevention, thanks to a record year of civil forfeiture proceeds.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond made the announcement at Touchstone Family Association in Richmond, which received $210,000 to continue its prevention work with young people who may be at risk of joining a gang.
In addition to anti-gang programs, the projects receiving funds will:
- Raise awareness of the dangers of the drug Ecstasy.
- Prevent violence against women and children, including those in abusive relationships and vulnerable women.
- Build awareness about domestic violence among school-aged children.
- Counter human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
- Support restorative justice training throughout B.C.
- Fund police training and equipment that will aid local crime prevention efforts.
Touchstone's Street Smarts Project serves youth referred by probation officers, school counsellors, and past participants who themselves are now session leaders. Twelve-week group sessions and one-on-one mentorship focus on life skills, personal goals and barriers youth face in seeking jobs, academic success, and peers and friends who are not criminally involved.
Street Smarts has operated on a session-by-session basis, as funding has permitted, over the past two years. Lacking funding to develop and plan future sessions in advance and develop posters and other outreach materials has limited facilitators' ability to recruit and help local youth. Touchstone believes its grant from civil forfeiture proceeds will sustain the project for up to three years, allowing staff to focus their energies on serving up to 60 youth this year and offering summer programming for the first time.
The Province is funding a wide range of groups that include school districts, non-profit societies and community and police agencies.
- Half a dozen Vancouver organizations are sharing more than $300,000 to provide personal safety training, violence outreach support, education about sexual predators, self-defence classes and other supports to vulnerable women on the Downtown Eastside.
- Operation X is an Abbotsford Police Department and School District 34 education program aimed at preventing Ecstasy use by local youth. This project - which will target grades 9 through 12 with classroom presentations, a youth helpline, posters and a compelling video featuring interviews with affected local families - received $24,500.
- Blueberry River Against Gangs, in Buick Creek north of Fort St. John, received $100,000 to provide Aboriginal youth at high risk of gang activity with individual and family counselling, recreational and arts activities, gang prevention presentations and cultural programming.
- The Step In/Step Up program, receiving nearly $175,000, will see Prince George RCMP work closely with School District 57 and other partners. Together, they will deliver a dynamic gang prevention program engaging youth through social media, a video contest, a youth-led planning council and a summit, building awareness about gang violence, and a forum focused more narrowly on youth involved in, or at high risk of, gang activity.
- The Okanagan Boys and Girls Club in Kelowna received $206,100 to empower youth by building their pre-employment, job and life skills, and by delivering training and support.
- Kootenay Boundary Community Services Cooperative, which received $25,000, will break new ground by developing and testing a regional child advocacy centre, engaging multiple, local partners to address the unique needs of child victims of physical and sexual abuse in a rural setting.
This is the largest grant program that has been offered and was possible due to exceptional growth in the proceeds generated through B.C.'s six-year-old civil forfeiture program during 2011-12. The grant process began with a call for applications in February.
Ministry staff assessed all proposals using established grant criteria, including whether the project responded to an identified crime prevention issue, whether the budget was reasonable, the involvement of other justice partners, and how the project's success could be evaluated. An independent oversight team reviewed the successful proposals to ensure the process was accountable and consistent.
The full list of grant recipients is at: www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/crimeprevention/grants/index.htm
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond -
"The Touchstone Family Association is a good example of how this grant program supports community partners that are tackling key issues like anti-gang strategies and preventing domestic violence and sexual exploitation.
"Our successful civil forfeiture program ensures that crime doesn't pay in British Columbia. The record proceeds have allowed almost 200 organizations and communities to benefit and use innovative public safety initiatives to focus on prevention, education and action. It is very encouraging to see the dedication and hard work being done right across the province."
Judy Valsonis, director of operations, Touchstone Family Association -
"This funding will bring new stability and energy to our work. It means being able to plan ahead, let youth know in advance that we'll be running sessions throughout the year, and we can strengthen the program and materials we use. More importantly, it will assist in building a healthy community for everyone."
"With a grant of this size, we can also turn our attention to the project and away from filling in every grant application. It now will allow us to realize our primary focus of reaching more youth."
Richmond Centre MLA Rob Howard -
"Most of what civil forfeiture takes away has links to drugs and gang and organized crime. So it's very fitting that this large grant to Touchstone - and others like it - are helping families and communities to reach out to their young people, get involved in their lives in meaningful ways and help to steer and support them toward positive goals and outcomes in their lives."
- B.C.'s Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) has just finished its most successful year to date, with $10.8 million in proceeds forfeited.
- Beyond funding the CFO itself, the Province was able to dedicate $6.1 million of the proceeds to support local crime prevention efforts throughout B.C. during 2011-12. This total includes $600,000 distributed last fall and $5.5 million just allocated at the end of the year.
- All civil forfeiture grant funds for the year have been paid out.
- The Province anticipates issuing further calls for grant applications in 2012-13, depending on the value of forfeitures amassed this year.
- Active since April 2006, the CFO counters the profit motive that is behind much unlawful activity. The office files civil court actions against property that is alleged to be a tool used to further unlawful activity or a proceed of it.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Justice