On Wednesday night, I attended a town hall meeting where this issue was discussed. The consensus was clear. While police enforcement is absolutely necessary, we need to invest much more in prevention. This is done through programs that create opportunities for youth in vulnerable areas, and things for them to do. These can be programs to help youth find jobs, or become better skilled. Or, they can be simply recreational programs that give the kids some place else to go than hanging on the street and finding a gang.
Much can also be gained from programs that help kids who have gotten in trouble straighten out, rather then leaving them to fall into the pattern of recidivism. These programs work.
As the headline of the Sun read, it's said to be "easier to find a gun than a job" in Malvern. Chief Fantino says he hopes a plan like the Mayor's can "address the root problems that lead to gun and gang violence in Toronto".
But, all of this is going to cost money. Restoring programs slashed after provincial downloading, perhaps building new community centres, establishing new programs -- these things won't be cheap.
Meanwhile, the police are looking for a $57 million increase to their budget, most of which is said to be just for "keeping up" with existing service standards.
And of course, this all is occuring against the background of a $344 million budget shortfall. The city cannot run a deficit, so this gap must be closed. Despite the talk, pressure is on all programs to make any possible cuts.