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Challenges of gang prevention

Community leaders will be attending a meeting tomorrow in Williams Lake to discuss on-going gang violence.

The RCMP says while the city has higher than average crime rates, there’s no current spike in crime activity or major crime wave.

One of the known gangs operating in Williams Lake draws many of its members from the Anaham Reserve First Nations, about 300km west of Williams Lake.

Joe Alphonse is chief of the the band, and points to poverty, and a loss of culture and traditions, as the main drivers of youngsters to take up criminal activity in a gang where they can find purpose and a sense of belonging.

Education is the key to getting people out of poverty, says Alphonse, because it then gives them opportunities to better themselves and provide for their families without resorting to crime.

Alphonse also points at the court system as not understanding the struggles of his people when it comes to sentencing.

But ultimately, Alphonse says it’s a lack of resources that makes life in his community a struggle.

The challenges in his community are well-known, especially after a scathing report by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the Representative for Children and Youth, after a 14 year old girl from the community killed herself.

But he says they’re still not getting more resources because they’re an easily ignored, isolated, rural First Nations community.

Alphonse does say things are improving, and that overall crime and gang activity has gone down, despite a few recent high profile incidents, and he says there are success stories coming out of his community.

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