Youth Who Set Lacasse Park Playground Fire Writes Apology Letter to the Community
In October 2017, a thirteen year old boy set a Tecumseh playground on fire, ultimately costing the Town of Tecumseh over $800,000 to repair the damage. Charged with arson, the youth, who cannot be named as per the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was referred to the Essex County Diversion Program, a not for profit charitable organization, commonly referred to as Youth Diversion (YD).
Youth referred to YD by police or courts are required to take responsibility for their actions and in doing so, agree to complete said requirements to in essence, ‘right their wrongs’. Part of this youth’s program requirements was to take part in a Youth Justice Committee, funded by the Ministry of Attorney General, with Mayor of Tecumseh Gary McNamara and his staff. The Youth Justice Committee Program is an alternative to formal court proceedings. A youth and their parent(s) meet with a committee of community volunteers and the victim. Together they negotiate meaningful ways or “sanctions” for the youth to repair the harm caused. One of his agreed upon sanctions was to write an apology letter to express his remorse to the community he harmed. The youth expresses his remorse and how he has taken responsibility for his actions in his letter:
“I would like to say to everyone reading this that I am writing this letter because I want to explain to everyone reading how the fire happened and what I have done to try to help fix what I did. When I started the fire, I brought some paper and a little bit of gas in a water bottle with my friend to the park because I thought it was just going to be a small fire and we could have a little fun but obviously that didn’t happen and the fire immediately went out of control and I tried to stop it but I wasn’t able to. I realize that because of what I did I have affected taxpayers because they now have to pay more, children that are now unable to play on the park, the mayor since he now has to deal with questions and people’s concerns, the reputation of Tecumseh especially since at the time there was an out of town team playing baseball right next to the park, and anyone that was there or nearby when it happened because they saw and crowded around the fire. What I have done to try to help out is that I have met with the mayor and others to talk to them about what happened and what I can do to help and one suggestion they gave was writing this letter which I was happy to accept. I have also completed the tapp-c program, I will also be applying for youth [town council] and will be completing the rebound life choices program. I have learned to always think twice about something before you do it and think about all the outcomes of what could happen and I have also started helping my family more and we have made our home more fire safe. I would like to thank everyone who reads this and can understand how sorry I am.”
The youth also offered to give the Town of Tecumseh money he had saved from his birthday to help pay for the damages. While the Town did not accept his money, the gesture made an impressionable impact on those present in what was a heartfelt and positive experience for all.
As a result of this youth’s referral to diversion, those present were witness to a humbling experience in observing a young person dealing with the consequences of his actions combined with the opportunity for a second chance and to learn from the experience.