On any given evening and into the early morning, there are a number of young people wandering the streets of Prince Rupert, with nothing to do and seemingly nowhere to go.
A real gauge of the situation comes in those hours when the bars close in the downtown core and the streets fill with people, many of whom obviously are too young to have actually been in the bars, but head that way to see where the action is.
The ever popular house party scene in the city also has had its moments as homes turn into party zones and neighbours turn to the police to try and return some order to their own streets.
It’s a worrying scene, with its potential for violence and seeming to lack any parental control or interest for that matter, a situation which has worried social agencies in the area over the years. At times it seems like it has become a problem that offers no workable solution.
Two letters printed in the Sit News of Ketchikan, highlight the problems in the Alaskan city to our north at the moment and make for interesting reading and perhaps a learning opportunity.
There is probably a need for our problems to be handled in a pro active way before things escalate beyond the point of no return.
One thing seems certain, it’s an issue that doesn’t stop at borders in the Northwest, how we take care of it could reflect on the kind of community we wish to become.
Sit News, Ketchikan, Alaska
Police and law enforcement in Ketchikan
By Vicky Newlun
October 09, 2006 Monday
I think that it is time that we as a community look at how we are impacting the youth of our community with the current laws. Our family has been on the receiving end of dealing with courts, community service (for one of his charges my son has 196 hours to complete in six months), mandated classes on drinking and driving-even if they have not been drinking and driving and they have already taken the class ($300) , fines, drug and alcohol computer test (even though he has been through an alcohol treatment program -another huge expense) ($400), drug/alcohol counseling, urine testing and jail time. All of which costs plenty of hard earned money, and all from minor consuming charges. You can see how this can impede with going to college.
Our community has a zero tolerance for minors drinking. The problem with this is that no matter the situation (any trace of alcohol), the repercussion are the same-the youth ends up with a record. (Knowing that most youth drink for the high and social drinking is uncommon.) For those of you who thought that these charges do not stay on the records for youth under 18, you as well as I have been mislead. In Alaska, all court charges stay on the record for a judge to access.
I do not want young people drinking, and I realize that alcohol and drug dependency comes with a heavy cost. But, one the other hand, I do not want to see a young person have a record to contend with as they enter young adulthood either.
Another thing that I did not realize is that if a youth is caught, on school grounds , in anyway involved with marijuana, they are convicted of a felony. This charge carries serious consequences such as; the jobs that may be available, the right to carry a firearm, and others. Not to mention the court costs, etc.
Many of these youth that are involved in these scenarios are kids that are at risk in some way or another anyway. For our family, I am a single parent and that has put my children in an at risk situation, by that fact alone. We know the more risk factors the greater the needs become. Having a court record is a risk factor for future success.
I am proposing that we as a community, try to put our heads together to come up with some other alternatives to deal with our youth and the law. My son turns 21 soon, but he is anxious to leave Ketchikan as he feels targeted by the local police. This has lead to discouragement and confusion at a time in his life when youth this age need our support.
This is not to condemn the police, as I am sure they are doing the job that has been set before them. I am just appealing to the community to look at this situation and see if this is how we want our public services to deal with this problem. I have seen the long term effects, not just the fact that yes, we are arresting these kids. I am wondering if Ketchikan has a higher arrest rate per youth than other communities. I have spoken a friend who lives in a small community in Iowa, and it sounds as though the youth there do not have to take breathalyzer. So, they do not have youth getting minor consuming charges like we do here. Only cases where the youth are causing problems because of their drinking.
When I was a teenager, it seems as though the youth was taken to the station and parents were called. For chronic abusers, the police worked with the parents and other alternatives were arranged for the youth to be successful (i.e. Job corps, the service, military school, etc.) I think that we have even more resources available now. Personally, I do not think that police records are the most effective way to address this problem, nor the moral thing to do to young people. These youth are just finding their voice, let s not suppress it.
Besides that, jail time is an expensive way to deal with this. Another cost is if the youth serves even one day, they do not receive the permanent fund for that year. Do want to train our youth to sit in jail and not be productive? Are we trying to bore them into behaving better? Train them that might makes right and that the police and jailers can phyically assault you legally? -+ I know my son would avoid jail if at all possible. That leads to warrants and more trouble. Then, he is constantly running away from dealing with it and starts a criminal mentality. Is this really a good learning tool? On top of all this, it hurts those with the least the greatest. I know we can find something that will address this in a better way.
Recently, my son was arrested on his 21st birthday. He was asleep at his friend's house and the police were called as I understand because of the noise. My son was already asleep in bed. They wanted to know who was all there, and they wanted my son's ID. He had a warrant for missing a court date, and he was taken to jail. He had not been notified of the warrant.He was still under the influence from the night before, and he was treated very roughly at the jail. He did say that the police officer was civil, but at the jail one of the jailer's made a comment, and my son cursed at him. And that was it, several of the men took him down. When he came out over twelve hours later, his ear was swollen and red, he had a huge bruise on his shoulder and his wrists were barely able to move. Not to mention, he had been stripped naked and had to stay in a bare room with a metal floor for over an hour. He was not allowed to make a phone call because I was told he was uncooperative!
It sounds like a police state to me. These young people are our future leaders, I feel like we are creating an angry young man. I am sure he is not the only one. I am afraid, those with less power are taken advantage of.
When you back a dog in a corner, they fight back. Do we really want a police state, where we are submissive do to physical punishments? If we are saying that alcoholism is a disease, doesn't that figure into the jailer's right or need to beat someone up? I know many people who work especially with youth are trained in non agressive ways to get someone to comply. Maybe the correction system needs more of this training. I am afraid that if we let this get out of hand, the next thing we will be seeing is weapons pulled. (Which is another case.) The police are also gaining control over our lives, by the fact that some employers are requiring notification of anytime you are arrested by 24 hours. This could jeopardize someone's job, even if the facts are not in place and a trial has not taken place.
I have tried speaking with our elected representatives at the state and federal level. I don't think that the problem is going to be addressed at that level. Therefore, I feel it is time to look at our community. Please join me in this conversation. Do we here in Ketchikan need a L.A.P.D. police force? Or would a simple form of an "Andy and Barney-5" be more the style for our small town? I am not saying that I know all the answers, nor that I am right, but I do think this situation needs to be examined for what it is.
Vicky NewlunKetchikan, AK - USA
Received October 08, 2006 - Published October 09, 2006
About: "I have been a youth counselor since 1985. I have worked in many different communities, including bush Alaska and reservations in Montana."
Sit News, Ketchikan, Alaska
By Sunny Jim Sundahl
October 11, 2006Wednesday
As an ex-police officer, in Ketchikan, in the early seventies, I would like to address MS Newlun. First even back in the early seventies kids had alcohol and drug problems. Parents sometimes wanted to help direct their path but many didn't care or know how to handle the problem before it got out of hand. There was little help for the parent and the police department is not a social service, it is there to protect and serve. Not that we didn't direct the parents or call social services, we did and I am sure they do now. But since the problems were major among the youth there, the social workers were over loaded and many times could not help. Instead of facing their child's problems parents would go in to denial, and do very little to help them. The police can only do so much, and we were busy all the time with many things, if we would sit with a youth at the station, someone could be breaking in to a home or business. So there are services for your children but you need to keep at it, it will not continue if you do not do your job as a parent single or not. I knew many single mothers were right on their kids and did all they could do to protect thier child. The state or police are not babysitters nor are they able to be. When a child is taken from a family they end up in foster care. A family that provided at least some care and help for the child.
Peer pressure is a major problem also, for kids. Since Ketchikan, had no major attractions to help kids they find thier own ways. Boredom is one of the biggest problems for them. That is way you see sex and alcohol as problems with kids in towns with not access to the outside world. They just can't hop in to a car and go to Prince Rupert, BC or Juneau. No break from the rains, they hang where they stay dry and can have fun. So what are they going to do if that is not a youth center, entertainment center or controlled homes. Many things were tried back then, a teen center was in use but many kids would not go because it was controlled by a click of kids and it didn't welcome other clicks.
About law enforcement being a police state, I don't think so, even today. There are so many checks and balances, laws and lawyers that stop that. But to tell you the truth I would not be a police officer now for love nor money. Many kids today have no repect for anyone or anything. To many parents have let TV, schools and society raise their kids it would be hard for me to police them. As for the treatment your son recieved in jail, well I have been there when prisoners rebel and later say they didn't do anything. Jails have no cushy floors, walls or bars. When a prisoner assaults an officer they are put down and restrained, in if they are drunk put in an easy clean cell. Stainless steel everything. With the diseases today I can see why. I was not there so all I can say is he shouldn't have drank to much to get arrested.
Another thing are kids targetted by police, yes and no. If the child is a problem and he stands out and if he has many repeat problems he is watched more closely.
It is a little late for your son, you may want to point the finger at Ketchikan, police, jail, court or social services but remember three are pointing back to you. It is the parents that have the responsiblity to watch after and raise their children. The children did not make them selves nor did society, you did.
Sunny Jim SundahlPortland, Oregon
Received October 10, 2006 - Published October 11, 2006
About: " Ex-police officer Ketchikan, Gateway Borough, Federal Police Officer and Security Company owner & Operator"