Young people who have made poor decisions will be among those receiving a festive message from the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) this year.
The APD is sending out about 75 to 100 Christmas cards for the third consecutive year to people in the city “who have made poor choices which have negatively impacted themselves and the community,” said Const. Ian MacDonald.
This year’s card depicts the door of a jail cell decorated for the holidays. A distraught man – with his head hung and his hands clasping the bars of the window – is also shown.
The message states, “Deck the cells with boughs of holly.”
The inside of the card states, “You hold the key to your future. Use it wisely.” A phone number is provided for a police hotline (604-864-4777) that anyone can call if they need assistance to change their life.
“We want to encourage them to make better choices and for them to know that they have the ability to pick a constructive, rather than destructive, life path,” MacDonald said.
He said the APD began working on the card about three months ago, and was inspired to reach out to youth with whom police have had interactions.
These include the two groups of young men involved in the ongoing Townline Hill conflict, which has included numerous incidents of vandalism and mischief, as well as assaults and arson.
MacDonald said police want to reach out to these people before they become hardened criminals.
He said those who call the hotline will receive whatever support they need from the APD, including linking them with needed services, to change their lives.
The APD first began the Christmas card program – called Operation Resolution – in 2012, when it distributed the cards to criminals and trouble-makers, including known gangsters.
The project created wide controversy and international media attention when the card featured Police Chief Bob Rich dressed as Santa, carrying an assault rifle and wearing tactical gear.
The message on the front of the card stated, “Which list will you be on this year?”
Last year’s card was a sequel, showing Santa – Rich in disguise – writing the line “I will not play with guns” repeatedly on a chalkboard while Mrs. Clause watched over him.
MacDonald said, in both 2012 and 2013, police received about 10 to 15 per cent positive feedback from recipients of the cards.
He said some were a simple, “Thanks for the card,” while others reflected on the negative path their lives had taken and wished they had more positive influences early on.
(Below: This is the first Christmas card sent out by the Abbotsford Police Department, in 2012.)