Every day from February 21st -28th, I am going to talk about a different Crime Issue that has an impact in our community. I know that people in Brant are concerned about their safety and so am I. I knew this a year ago when, during this same week, we talked about some of these very issues as part of our ‘The Week That Could Have Been’ campaign. That campaign highlighted issues we would have liked to bring to the floor of the House of Commons ourselves instead of having our parliament prorogued.
The first issue I want to talk about is youth gangs. This issue is having an impact right here in Brant. As we witness the impact of gang activities in our own neighbourhoods, the current government looks to end funding for some of the country’s most successful youth gang exit programs.
The Young Gang Prevention Fund is set to expire at the end of March, and there is an indication from the Harper government that the monies will not be renewed. Close to 1000 youth had benefitted from the programs established by the Fund, and all programs were either at or near capacity.
“These programs are a success story. I can’t understand why the Conservatives haven’t committed to keeping them going,” said New Democratic Public Safety Critic Don Davies in a release on January 28th of this year. “Diverting youth away from crime not only improves their lives but also provides a massive cost savings down the road.”
Plain and simple preventing crime is a long term cost savings to us, but we need that initial investment to provide the foundation to create these successful prevention programs. As a clinical social worker I work with the victims of crime every day. I’ve also worked first hand with gang members in Brant riding, Kitchener-Waterloo and other areas. Youth without a lot of hope are lured into this lifestyle by predatory adults. For the youth who want to get out they often fear for their safety and don’t see many options for themselves outside of the lifestyle.
We need to provide alternative programming for these youth to occupy their time so they don’t fall into the gang life and so that they can have support to leave the gang life. I have had the pleasure of working with one such group that is giving kids another option, the Arts After School Program in Eagle Place. This program gives kids real opportunities to explore areas of arts, entertainment, and culture that can nurture their mind and their spirit.
We know that sports and recreation have to be part of a prevention model as well. We need to continue to establish affordable opportunities for our kids to get involved in sports and recreation activities that are accessible in all neighbourhoods in our community. We are encouraging that culture by holding events like our Free Youth Dodgeball Tournament in Eagle Place, the neighbourhood where I spent most of my youth.
Youth gang prevention requires our getting involved in our community, and getting involved with and mentoring young people. But it also takes some government funding to provide the necessary programming that helps to educate our youth on the dangers of the gang culture.
The current government wants to strip that funding to support building more jail cells to incarcerate the kids after they have become gang members and committed crimes. We agree that we have to be tough on crime but it simply isn’t good enough to be just tough on crime. We need strategies that are both tough, and EFFECTIVE.
We need to invest in youth gang policies that don’t just punish the kids once they have become criminals and indoctrinated into gang culture. We need policies that help to prevent the kids from ever becoming members of gangs. I’m happy to be part of a team that supports well thought out, evidence-based and effective methods to crime reduction.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to link you to a program I have been happy to support on this issue which is the Breaking The Cycle Youth Gang Exit Program. This is a model that could be adapted to Brant Riding to help stop youth gangs before they get a stronger grip on our community. This program replaces gang activity with leadership skills, employment and support. It is one of the most effective programs of its kind.
For More Info please visit: http://www.cantraining.org/BTC/btc.php
Please write your MP to let them know that you want to see cost effective programs like Breaking The Cycle spread to areas like ours.