I posted an item the other day after the announcement of the various police raids that were conducted all over Toronto, rounding up suspected gang members.
The basic points I made are that little will change regardless of how many arrests are made, or guns are seized, or government funding is thrown into bad neighbourhoods until A: drugs are legalised and B: parents or other adult role models start getting serious about dealing with the very serious problems that a lot of kids growing up in bad neighbourhoods have to face.
One point I forgot to make as well is this: is conducting such a mass roundup really the way to ingratiate the local community into wanting to cooperate with the police? Or is it likely to further alienate most of its members? Although the ‘don’t snitch’ code of silence is ultimately self-defeating, it’s hard to blame people who feel they are the victims of injustice. I would imagine that being the subject of a raid would be a terrifying ordeal, particularly to impressionable young children. Being witness to a single incident such as that can undo years of community outreach efforts.
However, I find it terribly ironic that the sister of one of the high profile victims was herself arrested in the sweep, facing gun charges. Of course, that’s not to say she’s actually guilty of anything – she may have just been caught up in a very wide net. That’s for the courts to decide, and if she’s exonerated, hopefully it would be just as widely reported. But if one is to demand government inquiries into youth violence it’s best to be sure that your own kids aren’t hanging around the wrong sort of people first.
One of the biggest problems with parents, it appears to be, and as outlined in this Globe and Mail article, is flat-out denial. At least in those instances though, the parents were not involved in criminal activity themselves. However, according to one gang expert, Michael Chettleburgh, some of the gang members involved in recruiting younger members will often be uncles, cousins or older siblings. In such cases it makes it even harder for parents to do much apart from turn a blind eye. Familial ties and a not-misplaced sense of loyalty will often deter people from seeking outside help even if they were to want to. As this blog points out, blind not-my-kid parenting is not just a problem with poor families either. Where income disparity really does rear its ugly head is when the poor kids get rounded up. The rich ones can get access to better lawyers and hide in ‘American Beauty’-land.
What may be needed is some sort of resources for parents to turn to that perhaps don’t have to involve the legal process, but where they can have other sorts of means to help set their kids straight.
However, the real solution isn’t rounding up everyone and throwing them in jail. It might temporarily make authorities look good, but as long as the same problems remain – bad families and the demand for illegal drugs and the accompanying violence driving out legitimate opportunities – new gangs will flourish to fill the void left by the old, and more violence will follow.