THUNDER BAY – Crimebeat Editorial – Across North America, Police Services are moving to engage their communities, and especially to engage young people in their communities. However, in Thunder Bay, a very innovative effort by the Thunder Bay Police Service has quietly disappeared. The KidsnCops Website which was unveiled with great fanfare a few years ago is no longer online.
When the site was launched it was touted as the first of its kind in North America, and it put the TBPS on the road to engaging youth online in a safe, positive and pro-active manner.
With the site now being removed from the Internet, the Thunder Bay Police have, in effect retreated, it appears from having any social media outreach to the public in the city.
When the site was launched, the Thunder Bay Police Service stated youth officers were able to speak directly with kids via chat in certain age groups, and promoted discussion on topics such as bullying, depression, etc I recall that they even said that police were able to intervene with a child contemplating suicide as well as to launch investigations into assaults, etc.
The idea stated was that kids would be way more willing to speak to police via social media than in person.
Then Police Chief Robert Herman stated, “One of the best things about this web site is the chat room… and remember, we’re here to help you”.
On www.kidsncops.ca the Thunder Bay Police Service took a bold step forward.
It was not perfect, at first, but as it started to evolve, it improved. Initially, as an example, for young people to join the site, which also encouraged youth to report criminal activities, it required parental permission. That likely reduced the potential effectiveness as a young person who might be suffering from abuse in the home, for example, would be less likely to participate. That was later changed as the TBPS was made aware of the need for change.
The site was welcomed by the local school officials as a needed piece of technology to help young people. Sources tell NetNewsledger.com that the decision to shut down the site was made quietly, and it is not known if the school boards and other community groups who were publishing the site were notified that the site was being cancelled.
From the 2010 Statistical Report, “The Thunder Bay Police Service dedicates two Detective Constables to the investigation of crime involving youth (those under 18 years of age). Besides investigations, the youth officers are proactive at helping youth at risk. Initiatives that the youth officers have undertaken include working with child welfare outreach workers to assist youth in dealing with prostitution, drugs and high risk lifestyles.
“Information related to the location of missing youth was difficult to obtain via conventional police techniques. The youth officers realized this and started to utilize the Internet, understanding that the clear majority of youth frequent the Internet and use it as a primary source of communication. Youth officers posted their profiles on web sites such as My Space, Facebook, MSN and High Five in order to connect with and reach high risk youth”.
To watch the TBPS move from a positive position of leadership to shrinking away from the engagement of youth in a community where our young people are faced with so many challenges is altogether a step that doesn’t seem very positive at all.
Chief Content Officer