Skip to main content

Increase in youth gun crimes: WRPS


Waterloo regional police are reporting an increase in youth crimes.

Charges for people between the ages of 12 and 21 have returned to, or exceeded, pre-pandemic levels, according to statistics presented at Wednesday’s police services board meeting.

Charges against youth increased by 28 percent in the first nine months of 2022, compared to the same time last year. Police laid 344 charges against youth over that period in 2022, that increased to 441 charges in the same period last year.

As a result, the police force says it is designing a plan to better engage youth.

“It’s apparent that there is a significant opportunity to develop an overall approach to youth engagement. To accomplish this, the service will conduct planning through the first two quarters of this year, to develop a youth engagement strategy. Our planning, framework and strategy will be informed in part by youth, systems and community feedback,“ Insp. Aaron Mathias said.

Gun crimes saw the biggest increase, with a 48 percent increase in firearm offences among youth between 2019 and 2022. The chief said imitation firearms are a major issue and can count as a gun-related offence.

“There are a number of traffic stops where officers are seeing the combination of drug trafficking evidence combined with real or imitation firearms,” Chief Mark Crowell said.

Waterloo regional police say two youths were arrested on May 25, 2023 after this loaded handgun was seized as part of a stolen vehicle investigation. (Submitted/WRPS)

The police service says it wants to engage with young people more often. Crowell said police are involved in things like coaching, sports and youth co-op programs. Youth can also volunteer with police, but the force wants to expand even more.

“We have had a proud legacy of already intervening with some of those existing programs. We want to create that network at a higher level,” Crowell said.

“We want to find new opportunities to create our own programming and one example might be to open up volunteering opportunities where young people can join us.”

Board members suggested bringing back the school resource program for a stronger presence in high schools.

In 2021, the Waterloo Region District School Board ended the program after concerns were raised about its impact on Black, Indigenous and racialized students.

“We need to get youth in an environment where they feel safe,” board member Tony Giovinazzo said.

The chief said police still go to schools informally.

“We’re still going to schools every day. We’re in schools every day where we’re having those investigative and supportive roles in schools, so we also want to see what’s possible to partner with institutions in sectors such as the educational field,” Crowell said.

Police will collaborate with the University of Waterloo on a youth engagement strategy. Up to $50,000 is available for two projects researching ways to help. The service also plans to engage community partners for ideas.

Crowell said one factor in youth violence is childhood experiences like neglect, parental abuse and witnessing intimate partner violence, which can prevent youth from reaching their full health and life potential. Top Stories

Stay Connected