GANG PREVENTION TOWN HALL RECAP 2 of 31
Wednesday - September 11th, 2019 @ Toronto Children's Aid Society
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 the newly developed Neighbourhood Officers would have been an effective measure.
To better advertise events to community members, the participants advised that the following methods would have been effective: flyer distribution, word of mouth, community partner groups and/or agencies, grassroots groups, faith-based agencies, and Community Policing Liaison Committees.
FEELINGS OF DISTRUST
Participants advised that they felt immediate distrust and fear when they had any dealings with the Children's Aid. When asked to expand on their fears, the participants advised that regardless of their situation, they never wanted to have their children taken away from them (with the exception of voluntarily participating in the process). A participant who had some area of expertise in regards to the Children's Aid was able to provide the perspective that Children's Aid never has the aim of wanting to take children away from their families, however, they wanted to work with families to keep families together. This alleviated much of the tension and anxiety associated with the rest of the conversation surrounding children and Children's Aid.
Some participants advised that they feel as though various government organizations lack the skills to be able to address their needs, resulting in a lack of cooperation with government organizations (ie. law enforcement investigations that are not followed up on, government services employees diverting inquiries to other organizations or branches only to be referred back to the source referral agency, etc).
Participants advised that they may also participate in disrespectful behaviour based on past experiences.
GANG IMPACTS AND POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
Participants advised that they never felt as though they encountered gang impacts on a daily basis, however, they did mention that they would routinely see groups of youth hanging around certain areas within community housing locations that may be potential gangs, however, nothing was confirmed at any level.
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.
Participants advised that there is a lack of community leaders 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 in some cases, there are victims of crimes that never get named within various media. In particular, participants addressed that while there are shooting victims, these victims don't get enough attention as victims of homicides as a result of shooting. A conversation ensued in regards to the importance of highlighting the important of zero-tolerance for any level of gun and firearm related crime, regardless of the status of the victim.
Participants advise that, in some cases, they don't feel as though their concerns are being taken seriously by the police. To build stronger relationships, participants advised that they respond well to professional, articulate, and respectful police officers - regardless of what type of interaction is occurring. Participants further advised that they would be more willing to provide information to police as a witness to a crime if they had a trusting relationship with individual officers.
Participants advised of a level of excitement in regards to the Neighbourhood Officers and their direct involvement within their community.
Participants advised that there have been a multitude of new residents within some of their community housing residences as a result of the gentrification that is occurring within various parts of the City of Toronto.
The participants advised that there must be more of a integration effort made towards both those community housing residents that are being displaced and those communities that are receiving them in efforts of reducing the potential anxiety between adults, families, and youth, as rival gangs may now reside within the same building.
Participants advise that they would prefer an easier method of having their needs met, especially when they're impacted by crimes (ie. being able to transition out of one housing neighbourhood into another, being notified of displaced housing tenants from other gentrified communities into their community).
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.
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 the first 30 - 45 minutes to locate participants who were in the vicinity (parents, families with their children, local businesses, etc.) who were previously unaware of the event resulted in several additional and valued participants.
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.
We had utilized various forms of engagement and outreach (social media posts and door-to-door flyers and engagement). Social media proved to be an effective method of outreach. The majority of participants had attended because of social media posts and word of mouth.
The participants of this Town Hall were not negatively impacted by the number of uniform officers at this particular event (two of them).
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.
The participants advised that they valued being connected to localized services, learning more about what options were made available to them, and the insights they gained from understanding other stakeholder roles (who were in attendance and participated in the discussions to provide clarity on organization service assumptions).
The participants stated that utilizing a door-to-door and flyer method would have an effective method of advertising the #GangPrevention Town Hall.
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 local agencies will be increased to maximize attendance and input from the impacted communities.
There will be an equal to (two) or lower amount of uniform police presence at future Town Halls.
The material being presented will be adjusted according to some of the feedback gained from #GangPrevention Town Hall.
Door-to-door canvassing and flyer distribution may be re-included in the upcoming #GangPrevention Town Halls.