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Staring Down the Barrel
+Our live audience participates in the CBC Town Hall at North Albion Collegiate Institute.  

CBC Radio One 99.1 presents a special Town Hall from Rexdale
Updated March 15, 2004

As part of our series, Staring Down the Barrel, CBC Radio presented a town hall titled Taking on Toronto's Gangs: Voices on the frontlines from both sides of the border. Metro Morning host Andy Barrie moderated the evening at North Albion Collegiate Institute in Rexdale.

The panel included four American experts on gangs and gun violence: Sergeant Steve Newman, head of the Gangs Intelligence Unit for Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Michael Baca and Johnny Ortega from the gang intervention program in East L.A.-called Homeboy Industries; and Scott Decker, criminologist and expert on U.S. gangs from University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Panel members from Toronto included Police Chief Julian Fantino; Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminologist specializing in gangs; Steve Hall, project co-coordinator for Breaking The Cycle-a gang intervention pilot program in Rexdale; and a youth ambassador from Breaking The Cycle.

Excerpts from our townhall meeting:

Frederica Nickie, whose son Kelroy was killed, asks members of the panel why they behave without compassion or respect for human life. (runs 4:09)

Don Meredith of the GTA Christian Alliance asks members of the panel about their experience with religious mentorship and asks what our panelist Paul would say to gang members to have them change their lives. (runs 3:33)

Raymond Cho, Metro councillor representing Scarborough-Malvern, asks members of the panel how Canadian politicians can avoid the mistakes of their American counterparts and learn from their successes. (runs 2:30)

Sandra Pavan, President of the North Etobicoke Tenants' Association, asks Julian Fantino why Community Response Units aren't being disbanded to provide more police to patrol the streets (runs 3:02)

Our Panel

Johnny OrtegaJohnny Ortega is a 35-year-old former gang member now working with Homeboy Industries External Links in East Los Angeles. He grew up in a housing project in Boyle Heights, and became involved in a gang at the age of 14. After spending his teenage years going in and out of juvenile hall, Ortega turned his life around and now facilitates a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, coaches a softball team, and oversees the graffiti removal program with Homeboy Industries.

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Scott DeckerScott Decker is a professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.

His research on racial profiling, youth crime and street gangs has been documented in four books including: Life in the Gang: Family, Friends, and Violence; Armed Robbers in Action and Policing Gangs and Youth Violence.

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Scot WortleyScot Wortley, an Associate Professor at the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, has taught courses on criminological theory and research, penology, policing and violence. His research on youth crime and racial biases in policing has seen him involved in studies of racial profiling in police services in Kingston and Toronto. He has also edited a new book on Crime and Criminal Justice in the Caribbean.

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Sergeant Steve NewmanSergeant Steve Newman is a 32-year veteran with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and presently the head of their gang intelligence unit. For the past 16 years, he has worked with both the investigation and suppression of L.A.'s illegal street gangs. He also teaches at the department's "Gang School" and has lectured at universities, community groups and agencies across the United States.

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Julian FantinoJulian Fantino has served as the Chief of the Toronto Police Service since March 2000. Prior to that, he headed up both the York Regional Police and London Police Services.

Before being named chief in London in 1991, Fantino spent 23 years with the Metropolitan Toronto police serving as a beat cop, an undercover officer, a homicide squad detective and Division Commander.

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Michael BacaMichael Baca is the director of operations for Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based job training program for former gang members. Baca was born and raised in East L.A. and has worked as both a paramedic, firefighter and emergency room technician. He also founded "Earn Respect Intervention," an innovative program that helped youth-at-risk turn away from a life of crime.

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Steve HallSteve Hall has had extensive experience in the field of crisis intervention, addictions, counselling and community safety. He has worked with at-risk youth for nearly 20 years in various roles, including as a probation officer and a provincial child advocate.

He currently serves as the project coordinator for "Breaking the Cycle", a pilot project in Toronto's Rexdale community, aimed at youth who have been involved with or were victims of gangs. Fourteen participants meet daily to learn personal development and employment skills and also develop presentations for middle school students.

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Paul grew up in Regent Park, dropped out of high school in grade ten, and began selling at the age of 15. He spent the next few years in and out of jail. During that time, many of his close friends were murdered. This helped Paul decide to stop dealing drugs, find another source of income and "settle for not having (as much)". Paul now mentors at-risk youth and is hoping to set up his own clothing business.

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External Links

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The Miller Community Safety Plan Download .PDF (24 kb .pdf)
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TorontoYouth.comExternal Links

A Community Safety Strategy for the City of Toronto (1999)External Links


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