A community group in Montreal's Little Burgundy neighbourhood is teaming up with the police to prevent violent crimes among youth in the neighbourhood.
Youth in Motion (YIM), a local group that works directly with young people in the Sud-Ouest, and Montreal police officers at station 15 are creating an action plan to curb what residents say is a growing trend of violence.
"The sense of insecurity is high for many residents and we're just going to try to bring it back to a point where they can feel that they can still be safe here," Michael P. Farkas, director of YIM, said. "It's going to take a lot of work by us, and it's going to take a lot of work by the youth, also, to drop the guns and even drop the firecrackers."
But Farkas says the Sud-Ouest borough needs to do its part in steering youth away from crime by empowering young people through additional programs dedicated to their needs.
Officials from the Sud-Ouest did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
YIM's initiative with the Montreal police service (SPVM) comes after recurring reports of illegal firecrackers being set off across the Sud-Ouest as well as a homicide in Little Burgundy—the city's 11th this year—which left residents shaken, according to Farkas.
Farkas says he knew the 21-year-old man whose body was found in the parking lot of an apartment building in the neighbourhood on July 4.
"He enjoyed the studio, he enjoyed making music with his friends," Farkas said. "We're really happy to have known this young man and that's why it really takes you aback when these things happen."
To prevent future violent crimes, Farkas says it's important for his organization to coordinate efforts with the SPVM.
"I always say it's two lives that are spoiled because for the perpetrator too, things will never be the same for that person," he said. "So we want to educate the people and sensitize the young people ... and guns are not the remedy because once you have a gun, you're bound to use it."
'It could happen to anyone'
Aris Syed, a facilitator with YIM who moved to Little Burgundy a couple of months ago, spends her days supervising children and looking out for danger at Oscar Peterson Park — a place, she says, "you wouldn't want to hang around" at night.
Parents in the neighbourhood are increasingly voicing their concern for their children's well-being, Syed says.
"If one person is not safe, nobody else is safe," she said. "[A shooting] could literally happen to anyone."
Although Farkas says being a pacifist is easier said than done, he's appealing to Montreal youth to learn from the violent events that took place.
"When you have some kind of beef with someone, there are better ways [to solve an issue] than to take someone's life," he said.
"Sounds a bit easy to say, but it needs to be said because it's so easy to kill."