Expert warns against legitimizing ‘wannabe gangsters’
A female victim is treated for a wound to her lower back outside a Scarborough laundromat on Monday, July 16, 2012.
Published Wednesday, July 18, 2012 1:57PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2:21PM EDT
A gang-prevention expert said labeling the recent gun violence in Toronto as gang-related only legitimizes groups of what he calls “wannabe gangsters.”
“The reality is that they are young, misguided, reckless individuals causing a great deal of trouble and havoc in the community,” Anthony Hutchinson told CTV News Wednesday.
Hutchinson, who specializes in developing youth gang prevention programs throughout Canada said young people in high-risk areas are often not presented with many opportunities outside the gang lifestyle.
He said when Toronto police arrested a number of the city’s more infamous gang members during the service’s Project Pathfinder, which began in 2004, it left a void in those troubled communities.
“You basically have these eight, nine and 10-year-olds…and if nothing was done to give them better life opportunities, we see the repercussions four or five years later.”
Hutchinson said what he believes is developing in the city is, “more fragmented wannabe gangsters coming up in the community and getting into this kind of conflict.”
Toronto police and city officials have spent much time discussing gang issues after gunfire broke out during a community party in Scarborough on Monday, killing two people, including a 14-year-old girl, and injuring 23 others.
Hutchinson said what’s unique about Monday’s shooting is that it occurred with more than 200 bystanders close by. He added that the types of weapons used on the streets today are much more harmful than what was seen 10 to 20 years ago.
“If the two young men were using …regular six-bullet shooters, you wouldn’t have had this much collateral damage. Basically you had two young men using high-powered machine pistols or automatic hand guns, and as a result they can fire off so many bullets. There’s not enough time for people to get out of the way, to escape getting caught in the crossfire.”
Since the shooting, police have continually appealed for witnesses to come forward. However, Hutchinson said often there’s a culture of resistance to police in troubled communities.
“Many people in a lot of these high-risk or low-income communities are newcomers to Canada and there are tensions between the trust relationship with police and also the fear of what may occur to them if they talk.”
Yet Hutchinson stressed that those connected to the Scarborough shootings must come forward.
“They need to take responsibility and accountability for their actions,” he said. “We can’t legitimize them as gangster because really they’re misguided troubled young people who need to serve justice for what they’ve done.”