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CDN-NDG borough supports anti-gang program
Article mis en ligne le lundi 29 août 2011

As part of an agreement to combat 2011 street gang activity, the CDN-NDG borough decided at its June 27 council meeting to award Prevention Notre-Dame-de-Grâce $140,000 for outreach street workers, community workers and park facilitators.

The outreach team is made up of six young men who seek out at-risk youth aged 12-17 hanging out in metros, parks, and parking lots – their proverbial urban turf – to provide them with information about better recreational options.

The team also goes to local community centres that offer structured recreational programs and organized sports as part of its outreach to all youth. According to director Terri Ste. Marie, just because a kid plays basketball once a week doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have problems at home.

Funds permitting, Prevention CDN-NDG may pick up the tab for children whose parents are unable to finance a special outing. On one occasion, it purchased tickets for several teens for a trip to La Ronde.

In addition to steering young people to free or low-cost resources, it may subsidize their extracurricular activities by negotiating a reduced group rate, for example with a local gym.

Many youths in the borough come from disadvantaged homes, making them vulnerable to the temptations of crime as a way of solving their financial problems. “Loner kids” may get into trouble as well. A practical alternative is to help them find part-time and/or summer jobs.

Prevention NDG will refer them to Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi, a youth employment organization, where they will receive help preparing their CV’s and learning interview techniques useful for securing employment - often that all-important first job.

This approach benefits poor families in tangible ways while helping at-risk youth hone their skills and boost their confidence, making the downward trajectory towards juvenile delinquency less likely.

The umbrella organization also oversees the crime-prevention program Tandem CDN-NDG which has 4 community counsellors who work on strategies to promote security, as well as the perception of security. “We believe that the feeling of security is just as important as the level of security,” Ste. Marie said.

Counsellors work with both local police and schools to teach kids how to protect themselves and to sensitize them to the harmful effects of bullying. They also promote awareness about violence in the media and teach impressionable adolescents how to discern the difference between realistic and excessive depictions of aggression and conflict.

According to Ste. Marie, violence in the media has increased dramatically in the last 20-30 years. Pakman videos of yesteryear pale in comparison with today’s Grand Theft Auto. And although a product is rated 18 years and over, minors often have access to it.

Ste. Marie is especially proud of the anti-hypersexualization program that teaches young girls to value themselves, making them less vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. “Girls matter too,” she said.

[ Deborah Rankin ]

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