“There is stuff to do instead of stealing cars. I’m staying out of trouble,” he says.
“It’s a good program for me because it keeps me in good activities. My friends are there and staff are helpful.”
You can imagine that puts a smile on his mother, Martina’s face.
I’m really happy with him,” Martina says. “He’s trying his best.”
But what still hurts, Martina says, is the stigma. Though Kyle’s criminal record has been cleared, other tenants are still accusing him of doing things he hasn’t done.
“My husband (Carl) was saying that we’ve never had the kind of experience that Kyle has at Ray-Cam and Britannia (community centres),” she continues. “We were never able to get out to do anything. On our reserve we had to go to school there until we were in grade 10, and to Prince Rupert for high school. And we could never get there because we didn’t have the funding to get that far. That’s the only reason we brought (our kids) down here. To get their education done.”
Kyle’s urban education came the hard way and outside of the norm.
I’ve learned my lesson that going to jail isn’t that great and doing activities is better than joy riding on the street,” he says.
Houchen says that “if we provide inner city youth with a positive alternative to stealing cars they will take it.”
Kyle is an example of that. With go-carting and automotive mechanics he has an outlet and does not feel trapped. The support offered from the automotive and cooperate community has been overwhelming, and the kids can feel it. That means they are not alone. If we can sustain this program, the kids and the community will all benefit.
The program is working for Kyle.
He reports being happier now than he was at time he stole cars, and his friend from Prince Rupert has turned the corner with him. And, the chap from Bella Coola is not stealing cars anymore either.
Kyle has made positive choices to move forward and to take responsibility for his actions.
Through a program funded by HRDC (Human Resources and Development Canada), Kyle has a summer job. To qualify he had to be in school and must return for Grade 12 in the fall. He’s doing light administration work at Vancouver Community College.
Houchen concurs: “Each partner in the program sees positive changes in these kids and this strengthens our resolve. We all know the program is different and way out of the box, but that’s the way it works. If a positive alternative to stealing cars is provided to inner city youth they will take it. These kids are capable. And NasKarz is proving they are.”
Kyle Brown has found a direction. He found it through a circuitous route and a rutted road, but he’s making the right turn today.
He’s 16 now, but when he was 13 Kyle had just moved to Vancouver from Prince Rupert. Not knowing anybody, he moved into Native housing with a friend from Prince Rupert moving in next door.
The two boys made friends with an older kid from Bella Coola. “He was the one who knew how to steal cars.”
The three boys stole cars basically just to joyride. It was the driving part that hooked Kyle. He’d been dreaming about driving since he was 10-years-old.
Vancouver Police Detective Constable Tim Houchen says Kyle is like most boys his age who feel disconnected from the mainstream.
“I believe that we live in a car culture,” he says. “If we provide no options or hope for inner city youth, they will find a way to experience driving, often with tragic and life altering effects.”
The boys were sober and not on drugs when they stole cars, they had no road rage incidents and no accidents. They didn’t speed because they could get caught. But, caution wasn’t enough to shield them from the law or its effects.
They’d steal up to five cars a night and they got caught a few times.
“It’s not that great getting caught,” Kyle says, “the cops rip you out of the car and throw you to the ground, and sometimes they have the cop dogs. They would bring you to the police station and get fingerprints. After that they put you in the paddy wagon and bring you to jail.”
Kyle was caught twice and was in detention for about a week before he was released on bail.
“Jail wasn’t that great either,” he says, “It took a really long time to get out of the system.”
In fact, Kyle, though out of jail, is still caught within a system. He has ICBC with which to contend; he owes the corporation money for damage done to the cars during the thefts.
Then Kyle joined the NasKarz program at VCC. At first his attendance was spotty. Now, he attends regularly and has ambition to become a mechanic.