Gun and gang-related violence is an ongoing issue in Ontario — something that the federal governent has invested $11.37 million over two years to help the province fix.
Now, the provincial government says it will be “supporting the local fight against gun and gang violence” with some new plans.
According to a statement issued on Tuesday, March 26, the government is planning to launch a Gun and Gang Support Unit, which will support major investigations and prosecutions into both types of crime.
The unit will also aim to improve province-wide intelligence gathering, integration and coordination, and will assist local police services and prosecutors to investigate complex cases across jurisdictions.
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“We have listened to communities fighting to curb gun crime and dismantle gangs across Ontario, and new help is on the way,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “Our government is standing up for law-abiding citizens, local police and prosecutors to keep communities safe and protect young people from gang activity.”
Additionally, the government wants to work with communities to establish justice centres in various locations across the province, which will “move justice out of the traditional courtroom and into a community setting.”
The centres would reportedly employ programs that disrupt gang recruitment and help lead young people away from a path that could lead to more serious crime.
“This groundbreaking approach has been effective in several jurisdictions across North America in reducing crime rates, breaking the cycle of offending, supporting frontline officers and building healthier and safer communities,” the report says.
Preventative programs would include the Youth Violence Prevention and Resilience Program as well as the Keeping Students in School Pilot Project, which addresses the over-representation of some groups in suspensions and expulsions, such as students living in poverty, students with disabilities, and students of certain ethnicities including black and Indigenous students.
Further programs aimed at Indigenous students include the Indigenous Youth Prevention and Intervention Program which would aim to prevent Indigenous youth from being recruited by local gangs, and the Gang Intervention and Exit Program for Indigenous Women, which aims to prevent the exploitation, recruitment and further victimization of Indigenous women and girls.
The government has a focus on youth involved in these issues, citing that young people aged 16-29 are both most likely to commit criminal offences and most likely to become victims of crime.
“When we help protect at-risk young people, we create safer and stronger communities,” said Mulroney. “The new justice centres will bring communities, police, and justice partners, together with health and social services, under one roof, with the shared goal of restoring safety to communities experiencing the threat of gun violence and gang activity.”
At this time, the government has not provided a timeframe for when the Gun and Gang Support Unit or the justice centres are expected to launch.
We’ll update with further information as this story develops.