Fighting the pull of the street
Parents, police, role models all have part to play in gang prevention
Posted: Nov 23, 2012 4:46 PM ET
Last Updated: Nov 23, 2012 8:34 PM ET
Keeping youth away from gangs takes more than a strong police presence.
That end of the equation is vital but, without prevention, the fight against organized street crime becomes a vicious cycle, according to Montreal police Cmdr. Antonio Iannantuoni.
"The police cannot do it alone," he said. "We can arrest people and all that, but it's an ongoing game. We've got to look deeper – what can be done to solve these problems."
Recent federal budget cuts have jeopardized the future of the Montreal police force's specialized Eclipse Squad, which fights gang activity.
Now the service is putting more effort on prevention through community involvement.
But it's the community at large, the people who come in contact with youth every day, that has the most important role to play, he said.
"In the West Island, the community is very strong, but people have to raise red flags," he said.
Mahad Al Mustaqim, a former Pierrefonds gang member, uses his story to try and reach kids before they feel the lure of the streets.
"When you have a criminal record, that blocks you from many things," he told a group of teens gathered at the A-Ma-Baie youth centre.
"It prevents you from getting into a job that you want. Do you understand?"
Al Mustaqim was a teenager when he was recruited. He sold drugs, got caught and did three stints in prison.
'When I took the decision to leave the street and the gangs, my goal was to help people,'—Mahad Al Mustaqim, former gang member
He knows gang leaders often look for vulnerable kids to add to their ranks. He hopes his story will deter at least some from choosing the same path.
"When I took the decision to leave the street and the gangs, my goal was to help people so, days like that, I feel like I've completed my mission," Al Mustaqim said as he left the youth centre.
Cmdr. Iannantuoni said mentors, parents, older siblings and other role models all have a part to play in steering young people away from gangs.
One of the first signs that something is amiss can be as simple as changes in friends and new items that can't be accounted for.
If kids show up with new clothes or phones or cash and they can't explain where it came from, it's important to have a discussion and ask questions, he said.
"It's not normal that your kid is in school and he comes in with all this money and all that," he said. "Flags have to be raised."
Latest Montreal News Headlines
- NDP MP Tyrone Benskin 'truly sorry' for not paying taxes
- NDP MP Tyrone Benskin has apologized for not paying his taxes and promises to pay back everything he owes, but has lost his deputy critic duties as a result of the news. more »
- Dachshunds strut their stuff as UN bosses
- CBC Montreal checked out a dress rehearsal Thursday for Dachshund UN, a Festival TransAmériques show featuring dozens of dogs impersonating members of the United Nations. more »
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford denies crack cocaine allegations
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has vehemently denied allegations that he was seen on a cellphone video smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. more »
- Pierre's picks: 5 don't-miss events in Montreal this weekend
- Half Moon Run on the Lachine Canal, a collection of wiener dogs posing as UN reps, One Man Festival, bilingual comics switch mother tongues in the So You Think You're Bilingual show and Free Museums Day. more »
Top News Headlines
- Washington police blame bridge collapse on Alberta trucker
- Washington State police say an Alberta trucker was responsible for hitting a steel beam precipitating a bridge collapse on one of the busiest routes in the American northwest. more »
- Royal Bank pledges not to outsource jobs for cash savings
- Royal Bank has promised it will never outsource a Canadian job to a foreign worker solely to save money. more »
- Canada ranks 3rd last in paid vacations
- Canada ranks third last among economically advanced countries in the amount of paid vacation time it guarantees its workers, a new U.S. study indicates. more »
- Group calls for probe of Tory database used in election robocalls
- The Council of Canadians is calling on the Conservative Party to make a list of everyone who had access to its electoral database during the last federal election and turn the information over to the RCMP and the commissioner of elections. "Anything less at this point would be a coverup," the council said in a press release Friday. more »
- Montreal lifts boil-water advisory
- PQ wants to force federally regulated firms to abide by French language charter
- Lobbying saved Montreal's UN aviation agency, Paradis says
- Alleged sexual predator's victims sought by Montreal police
- 28 students strip-searched at St-Jérôme high school
- Former premier among growing list of politicians offered cash in Laval
- Relaunch of Highway 19 extension to be announced today
- 1.3 million Montrealers face boil water advisory
- Laval police seize drugs, assault weapon