Good kids in bad neighbourhoods
There are a lot of expert opinions around about the causes of youth crime and the gun violence in this city. I'm not an expert, but I've been talking to a lot of them over the past year - from the Cheif of Police to social workers, visible minority community leaders, the United Way, etc.
One thing everyone agrees on is that one of the root causes is lack of opportunity.
You can be a good kid with bad luck, born in a neighbourhood where hope and jobs are about as rare as hen's teeth - where there are lots of temptations and few good role models.
Think about this description from an article today in National Post -
A walk around the area yesterday revealed heaps of torn couches and trash piled high outside one housing unit, broken liquor bottles strewn across an abandoned parking lot and huge swathes where there are no street lights.
"There is so much work to do in this area," said Detective Jim Gibson, 43 Division, who pointed out that this area was the former stomping grounds of the Galloway Boys gang. "There's a lot of robberies, it's a high prostitution area, and with the prostitution comes the drugs, and then comes the types of offences that are associated with supporting drug habits -- it's a vicious circle."
Can you imagine growing up in a place like that with no hope of anything better? Can you imagine what you would do, as a young person, for a real chance to get out and up?
Sure, our Board of Trade has the Youth ONE initiative, and the City and many others are doing their part, but nothing is really going to change until we, as Torontonians, make it change.
I think the first step is realizing that the kids growing up in these areas are fellow citizens, just like your kids and mine, with the same hopes and ambitions of doing something with their lives. Not a bunch of gang members or 'youth at risk', but a lot of good kids in bad neighbourhoods who just need to see one door open ... just one, just once ... to maybe change their lives.
The next step is to do something about it - offer a job, support a program, provide an apprenticeship, volunteer, vote, speak out, write to City Hall or Queen's Park. Do anything but sit back and let the waste of human potential and the breeding ground for disaffection, crime and tragedy continue in our city.