GANG PREVENTION TOWN HALL RECAP 1 of 31
Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Thursday - September 5th, 2019 @ The Elmbank Community Centre
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 providing (or advertising) the following: food, money or honorariums, childcare, and/or transportation costs covered.
To better advertise events to community members, the participants advised that the following methods would have been effective: targeted social media advertisements (Instagram primarily for the younger participants), flyer distribution, word of mouth, community partner groups and/or agencies, grassroots groups, and faith-based agencies.
FEELINGS OF DISRESPECT
Participants who were residents of community housing advised that they felt as though every interaction that they had within the government sector was one in which they felt as though they were on the receiving end of disrespect - based solely on, what they believed to be, their address.
The feelings of disrespect primarily came from how they interpreted their customer service based interactions with various government services, including: police, municipal service officers, and provincial service offices.
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 some of the at risk youth in the community gravitate towards the gang lifestyle as a result of feeling that there are no job prospects for them and drug trafficking is the only viable income source for them.
Participants advised that some of the at risk youth in the community have "nothing to do" and as result, participate in gang activity due to the uninterrupted influence of gang members within the community.
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 gang members utilize social media in the area as a recruiting tool.
Participants advise that if an agency were to organize or facilitate sports tournaments within their neighbourhood (basketball specifically), it would bring conflicting communities together - including gang members. Participants further advised that any community building event directly within the community would be well received as there is only one event that occurs in their community every year (a barbecue).
Youth participants advised that they would participate in mentoring programs, regardless of who hosted them if they felt that there was trust established between them and the organizers on a wholehearted level (to seek their success).
A participant advised that they wanted some acknowledgement of "black bodies". When asked to clarify what they meant by "black bodies", the participant advised that they felt as though there was a disproportionate amount of black males involved in homicides and that any recognition of that would potentially result in more effective solutions or attention to some of the root cause issues.
The community advises that there is a distrust between not only them and the police, but between some community agencies and the police. This distrust was classified as a "stigma" by a participant.
When examined further, the participants advised that the distrust between them and the police had to do with their dealings as the reporter of crime, the victim of crime, the accused person in a crime, and/or hearing third party information from those that identified with being any of the previous listed three.
The participants advised that they may not trust law enforcement, but that they do trust individual officers based off of their dealings or third party information on individual officers and how they treated members of the community, regardless of interaction (as a community member, reporter of crime, victim of crime, or accused person).
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 that there is a lack of community space to be able to engage the community within their neighbourhood.
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).
Similar to the participants dealings with some police officers, the participants advised that they felt as though some of their interactions with housing staff have been unprofessional in the sense of understanding what the actual concerns are of the community members.
Participants advise that they felt as though they get treated different because they're residents of community housing and felt that they faced certain stereotypes.
Similar to the participants dealings with some police officers, the participants advised that they would react positively to proactive engagements by members of housing - outside of incident response situations.
Participants advised that their families would benefit greatly of some elements of healing care and ongoing support structures to address their anxieties from previous community violence impacts.
HOW OPPORTUNITIES CAN BE PRESENTED TO THE YOUTH WITHIN THE COMMUNITY
Participants advise that utilizing groups and agencies like the "Boys & Girls Club" and youth outreach workers would be well received within their neighbourhood.
Participants advise that some previous programming or engagement outreach efforts felt rushed in their implementation, resulting in a lack of trust or authenticity of the service or event.
Resume writing, career mentoring, and job opportunities presented to youth within impacted gang communities might be useful events or workshops that may be well received by both the youth and their families.
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, however, door-to-door flyers within the neighbourhoods we conducted outreach with had zero returns - none of the participants who had attended stated that they came because of receiving a flyer at their door. The majority of participants had attended because of social media posts and word of mouth.
The participants advised that the presence of police officers in Uniform (approximately six were present) was intimidating and was not encouraging for them to attend.
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).
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 a considerable lower amount of uniform police presence at future Town Halls.
The material being presented will be condensed accordingly to the perspective in the room, questions asked, and interests of each of the Town Halls.