Violent crime has been decreasing this year in the northwestern Manitoba town of The Pas, and some are crediting a local crackdown on gangs.
RCMP figures show 200 fewer criminal reports have been filed so far this year, compared to last year, in The Pas and the nearby Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Those who live in the area say violent crime appears to have gone down since community members in The Pas and the First Nation joined forces to deal with gang members.
The First Nation passed a resolution in 2003 to banish known gang members from the reserve, while the town barred the same members from entering public places such as hotels and bars.
First Nation Coun. Edwin Jebb says he reminds people who are involved in crime that it's never too late to change their ways.
"Start in a position where the person accepts responsibility for what they've done," Jebb said.
"Then from there, one of the things is that person saying, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what I did. I want to change my ways. Can you help me?'"
Gang members arrested
At around the same time, the RCMP launched Operation Clean Sweep, which led to the arrests of dozens of high-ranking gang members in the area.
One of those gang members was Jeff Constant, who was involved in drug dealing for more than 20 years until he was arrested for trafficking crack cocaine.
"I could never — and I never will — go back to that lifestyle. It's not even a choice anymore," Constant said.
"I'm hoping that I can help others, if they ask … [and]
let them know what it's really all about. The lifestyle is not what it seems to be."
Constant said he served a 20-month sentence, found faith, and promised to stay away from the gang life.
These days, he works as a contractor and talks to youth about staying clean.
"Movies glorify gangs and whatnot. It's not what it's cut out to be," he said. "I'm trying to tell them, you know, 'You don't want that lifestyle.'"
In addition to the two initiatives, Jebb also gave credit to more money being spent on recreation programs for local youth, as well as a restorative justice program.