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  • Ron Chhinzer

GANG PREVENTION TOWN HALL RECAP 5 of 31

Wednesday - September 25th, 2019 @ York Recreation Centre

39 Participants




BACKGROUND

For the background information on our #GangPrevention Town Halls, please click this LINK.



INSIGHTS GAINED

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.


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

  • 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 they attended after seeing videos on social media posts, they heard of the #GangPrevention Town Halls through local schools, and police officers within the community.

  • Some of the participants advised that utilizing local schools, community officers, word-of-mouth through respected community members, and effectively advertising on various social media platforms would have potentially engaged a portion of the population that would have not otherwise have been engaged.

  • Some participants advised that utilizing different language other than "gang" or removing the Toronto Police Service logo would have potentially increased the number of participants as some community members are either fearful of being associated with "gangs" or have perceptions of distrust with law enforcement.

  • Some participants advised that after major crime events or arrests, there are moments of influence and motivation for not only community members but also young children from their neighbourhood that can be utilized to positively curb some poor behaviours. These moments can also be utilized to build relationships with the community.

  • Some participants advised that actively engaging parents would encourage neighbourhood leaders to participate in discussions and promoting positive behaviour.

  • Some participants advised that there is a negative stigma associated to any community event run by the Toronto Police Service. That stigma stems from various perceptions from and within a portion of the community that has had negative experiences in their dealings with the Toronto Police Service.

  • Some participants advised that actively engaging currently volunteers within their neighbourhood would have established a positive word-of-mouth form of advertising.

  • Some participants advised that engaging local mothers within the community would have increased the number of participants at the #GangPrevention Town Hall.


FEELINGS OF DISTRUST

  • Some participants advised of feelings of distrust between them and law enforcement based on previous experiences, adopted experiences of friends & family, and based off of information and/or experiences broadcast on social media and news outlets - some of which came from the United States of America.

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.

  • A participant advised that they have/are running a youth mentor program to over 100 at-risk youth in which 7 of them have graduated from University. This community member has been able to achieve this without any external funding, however, due to the increased cost of school gym space, they are unable to afford operating a portion of their mentorship program.

  • Some participants advised that after major crime events or arrests, there are moments of influence and motivation for not only community members but also young children from their neighbourhood that can be utilized to positively curb some poor behaviours. These moments can also be utilized to build relationships with the community.

  • Some participants advised that family strengthening is and must be an essential component of #GangPrevention.

  • A participant advised that there was a community officer that was very well respected within their neighbourhood. At one point, a homicide occurred in within the neighbourhood and due to the positive relationship between the community and the individual officer, enough information was relayed to the Toronto Police Service that an arrest had been made within 24 hours. What made the relationship strong between the neighbourhood and this individual officer was his constant presence, regardless of if there was an incident or not. The community advised that they appreciated the constant professionalism and engagement provided by this individual officer.

  • Some participants advised that at-risk youth within their neighbourhood require consistent and ongoing support regardless of what they do. The participants advised that they have the right to be upset at the actions of violent at-risk youth and that their behaviour should be condemned, however, there must be a constant conversation surrounding supports to encourage positive behavioural change with the same at-risk youth - especially post-arrest or release from a custody facility.

  • A portion of the #GangPrevention presentation included the economic impact of crime and the potential return on investments. Some participants felt as though the savings from preventing crime would not be re-distributed back to the communities that needed the funding the most to support non-funded programs, community members, and social disorganization.

POLICE RELATIONS

  • 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.


HOUSING ISSUES

  • Some participants advised that some of the gentrification processes happening within various community housing neighbourhods is resulting in a displacement of residents throughout the City of Toronto. In some cases, opposing gangs are being displaced within the same neighbourhood causing community problems that were non-existent prior to the arrival of some displaced residents.

  • Some participants advised that there may be some benefit to integrating displaced housing community members into their new neighbourhoods through some formal processes that would encourage a peaceful integration and education to the presence of at-risk youth who may otherwise be labelled as "gang members".


HOW OPPORTUNITIES CAN BE PRESENTED TO THE YOUTH WITHIN THE COMMUNITY

  • Some participants advised that at-risk youth within their neighbourhood require consistent and ongoing support regardless of what they do. The participants advised that they have the right to be upset at the actions of violent at-risk youth and that their behaviour should be condemned, however, there must be a constant conversation surrounding supports to encourage positive behavioural change with the same at-risk youth - especially post-arrest or release from a custody facility.

  • 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.

  • Some 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.

  • Some participants advised that there are current community leaders that are offering and running mentorship and/or sports programs to a large number of at-risk youth, however, they lack any form of funding to be able to sustain their passion projects and programs.

  • Some participants advised that presenting other opportunities for career and employment that may be more in-line with the interests and strengths of some of the at-risk youth within their community. Some of those opportunities may be in the arts, entertainment, media, and communications industries.



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.

  • An economic impact portion was included in this #GangPrevention presentation that was well received among participants.



LESSONS LEARNED


  • 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.



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 the involvement of local community leaders and volunteers will be included going forward.

  • 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.




gangprevention@torontopolice.on.ca

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