Only 10 recipients have been awarded the Crime Prevention Award this year and Ponoka is on the map for one.
Beth Reitz, executive director for the Ponoka Youth Centre, was awarded the Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Crime Prevention Award.
Reitz received the call recently from the Solicitor General’s Office saying she was nominated and won the award. She thought the call was a joke at first. “I had no idea.”
She had to get the caller to repeat the announcement before she would believe them. But for Reitz the real praise goes to everything the Youth Centre offers.
“I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about the programs that we started.”
The Youth Justice Committee helps first time young offenders. The program offers an alternative method to restitution with a crime committed. She sees it as a second chance for young offenders to turn their lives around. “It’s much better than a slap on the wrist or a fine; it has a life lesson to it.”
Reitz finds the Youth Drug Impact Project (YDIP), which was originally started in Calgary has helped her realize the issues youths are facing.
“It’s been an eye-opener for us to understand how addicted to drugs kids are,” said Reitz.
Co-ordinators for the drug program will be bringing it to the schools in September. The biggest challenge she sees with drug issues is creating awareness. Marijuana, cocaine and crystal meth appear to be what youths will abuse and the results of that use can lead to troubles at home, school and with friends.
Despite these challenges, Reitz also sees positive experiences from the centre’s programs and she feels her duty is to help kids.
“I love challenges…Seeing a young man turn away from it or express a desire to leave it behind,” said Reitz.
Her biggest wish from receiving the award is to see a greater awareness for the Youth Centre and the programs they offer. “All of our teen programs here are life and skill-based.”
RCMP Staff Sgt. Cameron Chisholm headed Reitz’s nomination. In his letter to the solicitor general, Chisholm states the Youth Centre is one of the only places in Ponoka youths can entertain themselves.
“During my 28 years of service with the RCMP at nine different communities across Canada, I have met very few individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution towards addressing and preventing youth crime within a community such as what Ms. Reitz has done,” Chisholm added.
He credits her initiative with the YDIP for helping the RCMP deal with a gap in crime prevention programs in the community. Because of involvement from police with the YDIP, officers have been able to get a better understanding of the issues with youth drug activity.
Chisholm accepted the award on behalf of Reitz, who was away, during the May 10 ceremony in Edmonton.