Saanich Police Const. Mike Pamminger

Saanich Police Const. Mike Pamminger

Restorative Justice Week: A Saanich teen reflects on her former life of crime

SaanichPD rely on restorative justice to deal with crime by promoting accountably, reparation and addressing root causes of behaviour

For the better part of the last decade, Laura was a prolific thief, regularly dodging security and retail staff in various Greater Victoria malls.

But it wasn’t until Saanich police officers caught her red-handed earlier this year that the 19-year-old decided to begin changing her life.

“I had been stealing since I was 11,” says Laura, using a pseudonym to protect her identity. “It started as a means to live. I did it out of survival and then it became habit. That’s not an excuse, that’s how it felt. If I needed something, I had to get it and keep my substance-abusing mother from being abusive.”

Laura told her story to the Saanich News surrounded by supporters at SaanichPD this week as part of the nationwide Restorative Justice week, which wraps up Sunday.

Since her arrest, Laura has nearly completed the restorative justice program, a co-initiative run by the John Howard Society of Victoria and Saanich Police Department.

“I knew I’d get caught one day,” she says. “You’re not a good thief if you don’t think you’ll get caught.”

As she entered her teenage years, Laura became a skilled thief, she says, referring to her criminal life in the past tense.

“I see it now as perfect timing. I’d stolen from pretty much every store at Tillicum,” Laura says.

Still, Laura was frustrated at her treatment when she was arrested by three Saanich police officers. She was put in handcuffs and taken into custody while her friend, 18, was queried but eventually let go.

Through the restorative justice process, Laura came face to face with the arresting officers, where she learned what they were doing is normal, she says.

“It was jail time or the restorative justice program, but I (still) came into it with a mistaken perception of cops,“ she says. “The people I used to be around talked about the police as the enemy. You would hear bad stories about police and their abuse, how rough they are for no reason.”

The restorative justice process starts with a mediating case worker, in this case Nathalie Down of the John Howard Society. Down first gathers the offender (and/or victim) with the arresting police officer(s) for a round table discussion. A set of conditions for the offender are then agreed on. Once those conditions are met, the process is concluded.

In Laura’s case, it was the first time she’d been held accountable for her actions, a crucial element which leads to personal growth, self respect, respect for others and forgiving, Down says.

“I was caught at a store a few years ago, but there was no accountability. When my mom came to pick me up, she only laughed it off and said ‘You can’t get caught,’” Laura says.

There are a few requirements remaining for Laura before she completes the program. The main one is an upcoming session where she’ll present a lecture to police officers so they can gain insight into Laura’s situation and her mindset at the time of her crimes.

The other requirement is to meet with a mentor, which in Laura’s case is not a problem.

“I love hanging out with my mentor. It’s great,” she says.

Victims, too, play a key role in the restorative justice program. Nicole, a 40-year-old nurse, was assaulted in Saanich last January. She chose to have the assailant complete the restorative justice program rather than press charges.

“I chose it [restorative justice] because I didn’t want to see them repeat the behaviour that caused the assault,” Nicole said. “I wanted to see personal accountability and acknowledgement and a sense of retribution, to see them taking steps to correct the behaviour.”

It meant coming face to face with her attacker during the meet-up with police officers and Down, though victims can send a surrogate to read their statement or sit in the next room and listen, Down says.

Saanich police anti-graffiti manager Const. Mark Pamminger has worked with three different offenders to clean up graffiti around Saanich in other restorative justice cases this year,

“I wear plain clothes,” Pamminger says. “It’s on a first name basis and they sit in the front seat, not the back, so there’s no intimidation. The sessions start with me doing 90 per cent of the talking and end with them doing 90 per cent of the talking. The community sees them as the people who come to help out, not as offenders.”

reporter@saanichnews.com

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Restorative justice deals with crime by promoting accountably, meaningful reparation, and addressing root causes of harmful behaviour.
  • Based on aboriginal beliefs, the Saanich Police have used restorative justice for 12 years.

 

Just Posted

Rachel Rivera (left) and Claire Ouchi are a dynamic art duo known as the WKNDRS. The two painted the new road mural at Uptown. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Artistic mural at Uptown brings creativity, fun to summer shoppers in Saanich

Road installation the largest of its kind in Greater Victoria

Kathy and Doug LaFortune stand next to the new welcome pole now gracing the front entrance of KELSET Elementary School in North Saanich. LaFortune completed the piece after suffering a stroke with the help of his wife and son Bear. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
KELSET school in North Saanich unveils welcome pole on National Indigenous Peoples Day

Carver Doug LaFortune completed pole with the help of his son, wife after suffering a stroke

Victoria police continue to look for missing man Tyrone Goertzen and are once again asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police put out another call for help finding missing man

Tyrone Goertzen, 33, was first reported missing June 4

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

Bernadette Jordan addresses the media following a swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 14, 2019. Jordan says the government will provide $2 million to allow First Nations to continue to strengthen the marine safety system across Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
First Nations receive federal funds to purchase marine rescue boats

Quatsino, Heiltsuk, and Kitasoo First Nation’s among eight across Canada to receive funding

Most Read