PYEP helps police build positive relationships with immigrant and refugee youth

This summer, police connected with Edmonton’s immigrant and refugee youth as the Police and Youth Engagement Program (PYEP) operated for its third year.

The program was planned and organized through partnerships with police, REACH Edmonton, and community leaders who were instrumental in recruiting vulnerable youth to participate.

The week-long program successfully gave youth and Edmonton police officers a chance to build relationships with teens in a positive way.

This year, 38 youth participated from seven different ethno-cultural communities, including Oromo, Sudanese, Somali, Eritrean/Ethiopian, Iraqi, and for the first time, Syrian, teens.

The day-camp offered youth a safe learning environment and increased their comfort in relating to the police, exposed them to the daily life of an officer, and built connections across Edmonton communities.

PYEP aims to bring police and youth together, remove misconceptions on both sides, build trust, and create a safe and comfortable environment in which dialogue can occur.

Seven diverse youth leaders were mentored and demonstrated leadership skills assisting the participants with translation, facilitation and presentations.

The program is focused on equipping youth with the tools and skills to become leaders in their own communities.

As they enter adulthood, they will then be more prepared to engage in civic life and increase representation of their communities. This also allows youth to become ambassadors, as the program expands police knowledge about certain ethno-cultural communities and the issues that affect them.

“PYEP is a safe place where I share my stories with other youth like me. Where I learn new things like different languages and cultures,” said one young person involved in the 2016 camp.

“It’s a program where different youth with different cultures come together and make a change for ourselves and our communities. It’s a place where we get to know the police in our communities.”

In its third year, PYEP has shown that cultivating positive relationships between youth and police is a successful tactic for keeping them away from crime, while connecting them to positive influences and exposing them to the possibilities and opportunities.

“REACH is committed to supporting programs that improve relationships between immigrant communities and police because we know that initiatives like this are preventative and will make Edmonton a safer city for everyone,” said Lindsay Daniller, director of community initiatives and strategic development for REACH Edmonton. “PYEP has validated these youth at a vulnerable age and stage in their lives. It gives them a sense that they can be engaged citizens and valued leaders in the community.”

PYEP is free to participants and is supported by the City of Edmonton, Edmonton Police Foundation, Edmonton Police Service and REACH Edmonton.