Youth, Police Reach Summit Together

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 4:13 p.m. December 4, 2015

It can often be tough for police officers to find a foothold to start a conversation with young people about leadership and staying safe on the streets and the web.

A teenage boy on a rock climbing wall
A Climbing For Success participant ensures his foothold

But officers in  11 Division found their footing over three weekends in November, with 15 young people from the  West Neighbourhood House Canadian newcomers program at Boulderz Climbing Centre on Dupont St.

Organized by officers from 11 Division, unit commander Superintendent Heinz Kuck said the Climbing to Success indoor rock-climbing initiative was specifically selected for the youths.

“The act of climbing and its inherent difficulty of plotting a safe and successful route are somewhat symbolic of the challenges many of these youth may face as newcomers to Canada,” he said. “One of the objectives, through the climbing experience, was to provide them with a sense of perseverance over adversity.”

Constable Josh McSweeney said the young people were very engaged in the challenging program.

“It was done in an environment that allowed them to push themselves, both mentally and physically,” he said. “Each Saturday, they were led by experienced instructors who took them through the rudiments of proper handholds, footwork, safety, use of hand chalk, special shoes, ropes and harnesses. After each 90-minute climb, the young people gathered for a lunch-and-learn period where pizzas and ideas flowed.”

A group of young people stand around a man talking beside a climbing wall
An instructor gives instructors before they take to the walls

In the sessions, they learned about crime prevention fundamentals related to cyber bullying, street-proofing, Canadian law and restorative justice.

“It was an amazing initiative,” said Crime Prevention officer Steve Moniz. “In addition to learning the fundamentals associated with indoor rock-climbing, barriers of mistrust between the cops and kids were broken down and new relationships were created.”

Pro Action Cops & Kids sponsored the program.

Since its inception in 1991, ProAction has become the largest private funder of Toronto Police programs that see officers interact with young people.

People taking pizza from boxes
Officers had a chance to talk with young people over pizza after climbing
A view from above as a group looks on as a person walks to a climbing wall
A participant steps up to take on a climbing wall after getting instruction
TPS crest watermark