Graffiti art day at Harbourfront Community Centre
KJ Mullins-Toronto: Today at Harbourfront Community Centre the youth and 14 Division cops teamed up to make a canvas mural and pool table topper during Youth Summer Leadership, a program for area kids 12-15.
Adeyemi Adegbesan, the centre’s youth outreach worker, Program Manager Andrea Flack, Constables Jason Hurley, Dan Schippke and Sean Bowers and a group of about 20 teens spray painted canvases and a plywood topper for the youth room’s pool table this afternoon.
The activity allowed the kids and the cops to interact in a positive way, something that is very needed in the city of Toronto. Too often youth’s only interaction with the police is when they are being questioned about a crime. 14 Division is working hard to change that.
At some past events with youth in the area the cops show up with the best intentions but don’t interact with the kids. That lack of interaction leaves a lasting impression on the youth involved the kids told me today, saying ‘why do they even bother showing up?’ Today the kids were able to see a totally different side, with Jason, Dan and Sean having as much fun painting and talking as they were.
At first the kids were shy when Jason asked who was ready to paint. Two brave girls, both armed with amazing beginner talent, volunteered to put the first strokes of paint on the canvas. Within minutes that initial shyness was gone as many of the kids started to shake up the paint cans and get down to business.
One of the kids, Javon, said that he was having a great time and couldn’t wait to have more graffiti events.
Adegbesan was very happy to see the laughter taking place between the cops and the kids. He has said in the past that there are too many kids in the neighbourhood who have a very negative attitude when it comes to the police and events like the one day are one of the best ways to start breaking down those barriers that have built up.
When teens have a positive relationship with cops they are less likely to get involved with crime and have more tools to be able to protect themselves. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.
If you would like an event like today’s to take place in your community talk to your local police division’s community response team. They are always looking for ways to have fun with their area kids.