Collaboration, better support for youth key to curbing gun violence in Jane-Finch area: roundtable

Collaboration and better support for vulnerable and at-risk youth are key to curbing gun violence in Toronto’s Jane-Finch neighbourhood, say those who attended a community roundtable on Wednesday.

The two-hour meeting brought together politicians, police, municipal officials and community leaders.

It comes after two people were shot in less than 24 hours last month, one of them fatally, while waiting at a bus stop near Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue.

This recent spate of gun violence has shaken the community and made those who live there feel unsafe, the local county said. Anthony Peruzza, who organized Wednesday’s meeting at the Driftwood Community Center, where police set up a 24/7 command post following the gun violence.

“People have the right to feel safe in their neighborhood. People have the right to feel safe in their community,” the Humber River-Black Creek representative said after the discussion.

“It is in that spirit that we brought together all relevant municipal departments and community leaders to have a frank conversation about what we can all do collectively, do better and do more to keep people here safe and make them feel safer. also.”

Peruzza said attendees discussed ways to take both immediate and long-term action, including how to better share information, which he said would help people in the area better understand what resources and programs are available to them and how connect better with them. .

He said some of the things that can be done in the short term include improving lighting in and around the Driftwood Community Centre, Toronto Community Housing buildings and on the streets, as well as a more visible police presence.

Peruzza said the need for more neighborhood safe spaces for youth came up several times, adding that an application has been submitted for approval of a new community center in the Shoreham area.

Long term, he said, it’s about connecting with at-risk youth sooner and giving them opportunities and tools to make better life decisions and create better paths.

“We are establishing a working group to continue that conversation and perhaps find a way to adapt a program that is more active and has more success,” the District 7 councilman said.

“So the decision here today is to establish that system, establish that process where there is a better exchange of information flow and we can sit down with community leaders and better design outreach programs that better connect with more young people, more young people in the area and it is difficult to reach the young people of the neighborhood.”

Driftwood Community Center

Byron Gray grew up in the area and said everyone in the community wants to do more to better support all young people.

“They are the victims of a lot of this, at most points, and (organizations) are looking for better ways to really collaborate to find the resources necessary to work together and really find solutions for the community,” Gray said, who works with York University as manager of the TD Community Engagement Center.

“We all need to play a role in the solution and we are talking from the grassroots level to our federal government, and we are seeing that this room today was full of different levels of our community. That is the type of collaboration we need to reach the solution.”

Gray said Jane-Finch youth deserve to be in environments appropriate for their positive development.

“I think our responsibility is to really be there for them to listen and for their voices to be represented in all the policies that we’re making, in terms of creating solutions for them,” he said.

Andrea Tabnor, of the Jane and Finch Unity Organization, said she felt “voices were heard” at today’s roundtable and is confident the community coming together to support local youth will help address local gun violence issues.

“We’re going to make sure that each and every one of us come together as a collateral body and do what’s right for the Jane-Finch community,” he said, adding that the best way to connect with at-risk youth in the community is through familiar and trustworthy faces like her.

Tabnor said she is a community leader who “walks the talk” and promises to “get to the root of the situation.”

Superintendent Andy Singh of 31 Division agreed.

“The destination is the journey here. We just constantly strive to be better,” she stated.

“We’re always trying to address community needs, and in many cases we bring in partner agencies and community stakeholders, because policing is not what they’re looking for.”

Singh said police can play a role as an “initial response” when gun violence occurs in a community, but “sustainable solutions come from bringing in organizations that can provide the solutions the community needs.”

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