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In the last 15 years, the rate of violent crime among young people has increased by 30%. From gangland style killings stretching from Vancouver to Toronto, Canadian cities are struggling with a wave of youth crime that was unimaginable a couple of decades ago.
Many experts attribute the spike in youth crime to the increased number of street gangs-often the perpetrators of youth crime. Research indicates that youth seek comfort from those who welcome them and reinforce their sense of belonging. Unfortunately, some youth have no choice to turn to street gangs in order to satisfy their need for approval, belonging and self-worth.There is no consensus among experts on how to reduce youth crime. Crime involvement usually starts before the age of 15, with first time offences declining markedly once young people reach 20 years of age.
There is little evidence that punitive sanctions such as incarceration, community service hours, have been effective at reducing juvenile crime. There needs to be a balanced approach to dealing with young offenders. Some may need to be incarcerated, but many more need to be engaged in community programs that builds character, increases self-esteem and develop life skills. Social development programs that provide youth with positive peer interactions, opportunities to develop problem solving skills and a support adult help reduce the risk factors associated with youth crime.
Organized sports being used throughout the world as a dynamic mechanism as engaging youth of all races, genders, and classes. Organized sports programs are not the end all and ball solution to youth crime, however, they can contribute to reducing youth crime by giving young people a positive identity, feelings of empowerment and by helping youth acquire leadership, teamwork and self-governance skills under adult supervision. Although there is limited evidence of a direct causal relationship between youth sport and youth crime reduction, there are several rationales as to why youth sport reduces youth crime such as keeping young people busy and out of trouble, meet a need that youth have for excitement, make young people feel empowered, foster teamwork, and develop self esteem.
It is on account of these above mentioned factors that I have been running various sports programs on my own time and with my respective law enforcement agency. The bedrock and fundamental principle of all these programs is to establish a rapport with disadvantaged youth through the medium of sports. These initiatives provide the youth an opportunity to play in an organized sports tournament with the end goals being; building a bridge between these youth and adults in a constructive manner and providing the youth an opportunity to learn and develop sportsmanship, teamwork and leadership skills.
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Kids Play Foundation