An automotive program geared toward connecting with at-risk youth is launching in the Surrey school district this month.
NasKARZ (Never Again Steal KARZ (cars)) is launching a program in partnership with Surrey Schools, ICBC and others. The program, which is intended to connect with at-risk youth, will run out of Queen Elizabeth Secondary School’s automotive shop Tuesday nights, said program co-ordinator Tim Houchen.
Representatives from the school district, ICBC, Surrey RCMP, the Vancouver Police Department and the Wrap program gathered at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School on Tuesday, Sept. 25 to find out more about NasKARZ.
“I think we can help our community and make it a better place for youth who are vulnerable and at risk,” said Houchen who is also a sergeant with the VPD.
Clay Steiro, manager of the road safety program delivery at ICBC, said NasKARZ is a “proven, successful program that helps reduce auto theft.”
“Auto theft is alive and well in British Columbia. It costs our citizens millions of dollars a year. Last year, between auto theft and break ins to cars, ICBC policy holders paid out $68 million.”
Steiro also presented a cheque for $40,000 to the NasKARZ program through a community grant.
“When a program that’s called Never Again Steal KARZ, was presented to ICBC, they had our attention,” Steiro said.
Houchen said he is excited to bring NasKARZ to Surrey.
“I live here. I grew up here. This is my community. I live in the neighborhood. My car was broken into a week ago, so there is a problem and I am the type of guy that doesn’t just sit there and complain about it — I’m going to go out and do something about it.”
Ten years ago, Houchen said, he had an idea on how to connect with youth after a number of car thefts in Vancouver.
“One of the things kids actually stated is that they wanted an opportunity to get to know police officers outside of their role, so they wanted to sit down and talk with them,” he said.
Houchen said he looked back at his upbringing and looked at how he connected with his dad.
“My dad and I connected over a project, whether it was building something or working on the boat or working on a motor, that’s the time when we connected,” Houchen said.
That is the experience, Houchen said, that he wanted to bring forward to at-risk youth. He said he decided to first tackle the issue of kids stealing cars.
“For a little while, I got some looks that were like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re going to get kids that are stealing cars to do mechanics and work with tools and basically be better thieves.’ That wasn’t the premise. The premise was work with kids so that they appreciate and learn to love the auto mechanics and respect other people’s things — which is exactly what happened.”
In the 10 years that NasKARZ has been running out of Vancouver Community College, Houchen said there has never been a tool stolen at the shop “because the kids value that time with our works and our mentors and our instructors.”
NasKARZ, Houchen said, will run for a full semester in Surrey and students will receive credits toward school. During the weekly program, Surrey RCMP officers, school district staff, workers from Jellybean Auto Crafters and members of the Wrap program will be on hand for the students.
Jon Ross of the Wrap program said the goal was to first target students who don’t have full-time education and who are open to spending time in a program outside of school hours.
“Some have an interest in cars, some just want to have something to do that’s positive,” Ross said. So far, Ross said, the Wrap program has recruited 10 students but is looking to go up to 15 students. He also said there is a need for female students.
Doug Litke, the principal for the continuing education program at Queen Elizabeth said NasKARZ is a “great addition” to other nighttime shop classes the school offers.
“My entire goal is to create programs for kids to build interest for kids to teach them tools and skills to take on with them — whether or not they’ll use it in the future — it just gives them something to increase their self esteem.”
Houchen said the goal of NasKARZ is to make the students like themselves, then make them feel safe “by providing services that wrap around.”
“Then we work on cars and soapboxes and weld and paint and all the other stuff to go along with it.”