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Teen crime rises in Simpson

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Friday, May 18, 2007

FORT SIMPSON - Officials in Fort Simpson have noticed a recent increase in crimes committed by teenagers.

"There's definitely been an increase in our involvement with the youth," said RCMP Sgt. Cliff McKay.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

A motorhome parked along the main street in Fort Simpson was one of the recent victims of crimes by teenagers. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Since the beginning of April, the RCMP in the village have seen continuous problems with youth that have included vandalism in the downtown area, a number of break-ins at the recreation centre and the theft of three trucks. At the end of the month, crimes were committed at a motorhome and a house.

In the early morning of April 29 a motorhome parked on the corner of the main street and 99A Street was broken into. Windows were broken on the vehicle and some damage was done inside, said Const. Jack Keefe, the investigating officer.

A 19-year-old resident of Fort Simpson was arrested and charged with mischief. The charge wasn't break and enter because the motorhome isn't a residence, said Keefe.

The matter will be heard in Justice of the Peace court.

Also on April 29 two minors broke into a house on Mackenzie Drive. The two youth jimmied the backdoor with a pry bar and stole a quantity of liquor and money from the house, said Keefe. This is the first offence for both minors. The matter is going to the Justice Circle.

"We've had a spike in criminal activity in youths over the past four months," said Keefe.

The recent crimes have only been committed by a small minority of the youth, but the incidents haven't painted a good picture of young people in the community, said McKay.

"There's lots of young people who are good," he said.

Robert Byatt, principal at Thomas Simpson school, said he's also noticed the spike in crimes by teenagers.

Both McKay and Byatt point to alcohol and underage drinking as factors for the rise in crimes.

"It's what alcohol can lead to," said McKay.

Byatt said he knows the youth that were involved in many of the incidents and they're all good kids but they made mistakes because of alcohol. The rise in crime is a warning, said Byatt.

"It's an indication that things are going south," he said.

Like adults, youth don't see the problems with drinking heavily until it leads them to commit or be involved in a crime, said McKay.

"They really don't seem to grasp it until something like this happens," he said.

Both McKay and Byatt agree that parents have to take an active role in dealing with alcohol and drinking.

"Maybe it's a wake up call for parents. The police can't solve all the problems when it comes to youth," said McKay.

McKay said he can't emphasize enough how parents have to be involved in their children's lives.

"It all starts at home," he said.

Parents have to ask their children tough questions about where they're going and what they're doing, he said. They then have to hold their children responsible for their actions, said McKay.

Byatt said he's afraid that excessive drinking by youth will lead to a significant tragedy.

In the winter he worried that someone would freeze outside. Now with the warm weather he thinks about the mix of alcohol, driving, camping and campfires, especially over the long weekend.

"Parents have to get more involved and we have to stop the flow," said Byatt.