LAKE Macquarie Police District commander Superintendent Danny Sullivan says it’s an old saying, but it still rings true.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” he said.
And it’s that premise that is driving a state government decision to provide $185,000 to fund an 18-month program to supports at-risk youth in Lake Macquarie and help break the cycle of crime.
Community Activities Lake Macquarie (CALM), in Toronto, will use the funding for a range of crime prevention and youth diversionary projects.
The grant will enable a new community development officer to deliver supervised recreational activities and mentoring programs.
Attorney General Mark Speakman joined member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, to announce the funding on Friday.
“The focus is on early intervention for at-risk youth to keep them off the streets and help them before major issues arise,” Mr Piper said.
“The initiative aims to find creative ways to engage teenagers to keep them out of trouble including hip-hop music workshops, mentoring programs, and street art lessons.”
CALM chief executive officer Sheena Harvey said a Lake Macquarie youth survey in 2017 found 64 per cent of young people had tried alcohol, with 18 per cent regularly drinking to excessive levels. Some 46 per cent said they used illegal substances, and 26 per cent did not see a positive future.
She said CALM was looking forward to working with local community groups, organisations, clubs and businesses to help develop greater opportunities for young people at risk of connecting with the juvenile justice system.
Superintendent Sullivan, who is also the Northern Region youth sponsor, said it was not a big stick approach.
“Prevention is better than cure,” he said.
“One of the key focuses of police is to keep children away from the criminal justice system, and to build processes that give them resilience so that they can be functional members of society.”
He said there was extensive research that showed youth diversionary projects, such as the ones funded in Lake Macquarie, worked.
So police had a key role in joining with local partners such as schools, councils, and employment agencies for an all-of-community approach to “building young people up so that they have a proper future,” Superintendent Sullivan said.
“If we can prevent the crime taking place, it saves so much work with a dysfunctional person down stream.”