GANG PREVENTION TOWN HALL RECAP 4 of 31
Thursday - September 19th, 2019 @ Toronto Public Library - Humber Summit
During our #GangPrevention Town Halls, we provide an opportunity for the participants to be able to openly discuss and voice their experiences, insights, and opinions on their interactions and perspectives on gangs and #GangPrevention.
In those conversations, we ensure that the participants will be afforded a level of anonymity and confidentiality with the intent on having true and open conversations to gather an understanding of what may be occurring at the community level with respect of the gang impact.
Below is a general list of the insights gained during this #GangPrevention Town Hall. Please note that the information may have been adjusted to protect the identity or source of the information, but the content messaging has been kept as accurate as possible.
To better engage community members to participate in government run events and/or Town Halls, participants advise that utilizing local community leaders to advocate and advertise the events in the future.
Some of the participants advised that some gang impacted families might feel shame in attending a #GangPrevention Town Hall. The shame may stem from having family members that are gang involved and having to face the rest of their community. Because of that potential shame, the family members that may benefit the most from our #GangPrevention Town Halls may not attend.
Some of the participants advised that they attended as a result of seeing posters at local social service and medical facilities, which proved to be effective form of engagement.
Some participants advised that they received information to attend the #GangPrevention Town Hall as a result of information relayed to them via their respective school.
Some participants advised that pursuing relationships with newcomer centres may be an overlooked option to further engage a portion of the neighbourhood that would otherwise not be aware of events being held in the community.
FEELINGS OF DISTRUST
Participants who attended this #GangPrevention Town Hall did not express any levels of or insights into a distrust between them and other services.
GANG IMPACTS AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
Participants advised that some of the at risk youth in the community have "nothing to do" and as result, loiter, cause minor disruptions within community housing, and participate in some levels of property damage and vandalism.
Some participants advised that being associated to gangs and the gang lifestyle is becoming normalized and that the normalization of gangs is a problem.
Participants advised of a level of excitement in regards to the Neighbourhood Officers and their direct involvement within their community.
Participants advised that a more constant and engaging police presence (outside of responding to criminal incidents) with children in the community would boost police-community relations immensely as the parents of the children would appreciate role models outside of the gangs within their neighbourhood.
Participants advised that some of them had a strong and positive connection to their local community officers that are transitioning into the Neighbourhood Officer program.
Participants who attended this #GangPrevention Town Hall did not express any levels of or insights in respect to housing issues.
HOW OPPORTUNITIES CAN BE PRESENTED TO THE YOUTH WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
Participants advised that they were excited and welcoming to the idea of having Neighbourhood Officers embedded within their community and that they may be used as positive mentors for youth that reside within their community, especially to those who need it.
Participants advised that youth within their community need to be positively engaged by everyone within the community at all times - including community members, law enforcement, and other social service agency staff that may be in and around their community on a daily basis.
TOWN HALL BEST PRACTICES
Utilizing the first 30 - 45 minutes to get to know each of the participants provided top be a valuable exercise as it allowed us to gather a better understanding of each participants perspective and reason for attending the #GangPrevention Town Hall.
Utilizing a moderated Q&A to the participants encouraged a high level of positive engagement. Our moderated Q&A only had two requirements, 1) we stay solutions focused, and 2) we utilize "I" statements to avoid potential conflicts within the Town Hall. This method was well received.
Providing food, snacks, water, and coffee were well received.
Outlining the itinerary and advising participants that they would have an opportunity to voice their concerns with a level of protection and anonymity encouraged honest and open discussions.
There were no uniformed police officers at this Town Hall.
The main presentation was sped up to allow for more time for the conversation period.
We had utilized various forms of engagement and outreach (social media posts, door-to-door flyers, posters within the Regent Park Community Centre, and personal engagement and invitations). Posters proved to be an effective method of outreach. The majority of participants had attended because of either posters or social media posts that they came across. Some participants attended after hearing of the #GangPrevention Town Halls through a word-of-mouth from their associates or friends.
The participants advised that they were very much appreciative of the lack of media, politicians, and senior officials at the event and that it felt genuine - and not a photo opportunity.
The participants advised that the moderated Q&A was worthwhile and the most valuable portion of the Q&A once they understood our #GangPrevention framework and our vision going forward.
Pursuing other methods of engagement, specifically, utilizing authorized local school communications and newcomer centres would have potentially increased attendance to our #GangPrevention Town Halls.
IMPROVEMENTS GOING FORWARD
We will be adjusting our advertising and outreach strategy going forward to the next Town Halls.
Media, politicians, and organizational leaders will be held back going forward to determine the best course of integration without compromising the trust in the participants of the #GangPrevention Town Halls.
Outreach strategies to include schools and newcomer centres will be increased to maximize attendance and input from the impacted communities.
There will continue to be no uniform police presence at these events as it greatly speeds up trust and relationship building to those that advised they had some levels of anxiety when being in a room with a uniformed officer. It should be noted that the participants were aware that there were several police officers within the event, however, none of the participants had any issue with them being there. Their anxieties stemmed around a police uniform, not the police personnel.
The material being presented will be adjusted according to some of the feedback gained from #GangPrevention Town Hall.