They’re present in almost every community in the province, both in urban and rural settings, and most communities are struggling to deal with them effectively.
Street gangs and related issues of addictions, crime and violence are present in many communities across Saskatchewan. But a new report looking at the issue of street gangs is calling for a new approach, saying one strategy doesn’t fit all, and communities need to tailor their response to them to address local issues.
Following community discussions across the province throughout 2018, the report looked at current models and offers recommendations on the prevention and intervention of street gang activity.
STR8 UP, a Saskatoon-based outreach organization worked with a researcher to develop the report. STR8 UP offers programming and support to people who have lived or are living a street lifestyle and are looking to make a positive change.
Just one month after being released from jail, Jamie Halkett is working with STR8 UP, telling his story of life in a gang to others as part of community consultations following the release of the report. Halkett was in Prince Albert today as part of a community meeting on the issue.
After leaving gang life in 2014, Halkett said finding positive supports can be tough once you’re away from the street.
“It isn’t something that you normally do,” Halkett told paNOW. “You’ve got to try to, sort of turn your whole life around and start trying to be more productive for society, and so it’s a little bit of a learning curve.
"Through STR8 UP, that’s what I found was a family I never had.”
Stan Tu’Inukuafe with STR8 UP said many communities want to curb gang activity but need direction on how to go about it. The Provincial Gang Strategy report, which is available online, said the justice system and other approaches are continually funded but don’t address issues of poverty, racism and violence that can lead to gang activity.
STR8 UP is calling for funding to create a more effective and culturally relevant strategy.
“The needs are different in every different community,” Tu’Inukuafe said. “We’re hopeful that once communities identify where they’re at, that one of the other things they could identify is if they have gang members in their community, how can they work with them?”
Community members at the meeting Friday said a lack of activities in Prince Albert contributes to the number of street gangs and criminal activity in the city. Positive activities and pro-social relationships were both identified in the report as ways to engage the community and curb negative behaviour.
Through his work with STR8 UP, Halkett said he now has hope he’ll be able to continue moving forward in a positive way.
“Right now, I feel really good about my situation,” Halkett said on Friday. “I know that I have a very strong circle of support. I got a lot of people that care about me.”
On Twitter: @CharleneTebbutt
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