Halifax mayor says city can win fight against gun violence
'Everybody has to step up not just the governments,' says Mel Lucas with CeaseFire
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said gun violence in the city can be curtailed — and the community's ability to handle past crimes proves that.
He said late-night violence was a "big deal" downtown about five years ago, but was tackled successfully through more policing, the help of bar owners and other measures. And while swarmings were a problem a decade ago, "you don't hear about those issues as much."
"We've shown that we can tackle crime in this community," Savage said in an interview.
The latest concern is shootings. Two men are dead and another was injured after three separate shootings on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. There have been 11 homicides in the municipality so far this year.
All the men who were shot knew their attackers, said Halifax police Chief Jean-Michel Blais. He wouldn't say if the shootings involved the illegal drug trade.
'Lead people to do desperate things'
Savage said the source of the gun violence is complicated.
"Poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of housing, these are issues that lead people to do desperate things in some cases."
Even the school system plays a role, according to Mel Lucas, the program manager at CeaseFire, a non-profit group focused on eliminating violent behavior among youth.
Lucas said students from communities like Uniacke Square are often placed in individualized program plans, also known as IPPs. The programs are typically developed for students who are struggling in school.
'Everybody has to step up'
Students finish high school with an IPP usually find it hard to get a post-secondary education or find work, said Lucas. That leaves them struggling to survive and feeling hopeless.
"Everybody has to step up, not just the governments, it's the communities," he said, adding people need to do more than just talk about the problem, they need to get involved in projects.
Savage agrees. He said if municipal leaders, community groups and citizens come together they can solve the problem.
"I think these programs are having an effect," said Savage. "It's sad when people die needlessly … we have to figure out how to find the people who've committed the crime and we ask the community to come forward and help us with that."
With files from Information Morning, Colleen Jones