John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

JHS on Facebook JHS on Twitter G+ JHSYouTube

Diversity forum Aimed to Address Community Safety:

But, few attend to hear message

Dec 3, 2005
By Keith Gilligan Staff Writer

AJAX -- On the same night a forum on community safety was held, another person was shot and killed in Toronto.

In what could be called the year of the gun, the Ajax Diversity Advisory Committee decided to hold the forum ‘How Safe is Our Community?’

“With what is going on all over Toronto and the GTA, we thought it was a good idea to have a chat,” committee chairman Alton Atkinson told a crowd of about 50 at J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate on Thursday night.

The forum was the first of four the group plans to have over the next five months, and the aim is to gauge how people perceive Ajax, he stated.

Agencies or organizations with representatives on the panel were the Durham Regional Police, the Town of Ajax recreation services, both Durham school boards, the John Howard Society, The Youth Centre, the YMCA and Community Justice Alternatives of Durham Region.

“This is a very important initiative,” said moderator Bill Parish. “Safety of the community is important to all of us. It isn’t just a matter for the police or schools. It’s up to all of us.”

Each group outlined its services and programs offered, followed by questions.

“With all the services available, how come there are all the problems we have in the community?” asked Bromley Wharton. “Aren’t parents aware? I heard a lot of things I didn’t know existed.”

He asked how the agencies are trying to reach the public.

Mr. Parish touched on that, saying there was a “wealth of help in the community. Whether they access it or not is another thing.”

Joe Mitschang, a Durham Regional Police constable and diversity committee member, said the services are “out there. People are unwilling to avail themselves of them.

“We look for partners, the stakeholders in getting the information out,” he said. “The biggest partners are the parents.”

Janet McPherson of The Youth Centre said promoting services is one of the biggest challenges. Centre staff have to “go where the youth are,” she said. “It is a struggle.”

Jan Langlois of the John Howard Society noted if someone comes to the society, they’ll bring a friend.

“Youth come in and the next time they come, they bring a friend,” she said. ”The best word of mouth is serving people well.”

Alvin Adams, who works as an educator said, “I’ve heard a lot of lofty standards,” but he questioned what the school boards are doing to keep youths in school.

Mr. Parish noted the provincial government “is very concerned with the high level of dropouts,” while Linda Lowery, of the Durham District School Board, pointed to the board’s Return Ticket program. It’s for students who have been expelled and helps them return to school.

Mr. Adams noted, “It’s not easy to get into the program. You expel them and there’s no where to go and the end up in gangs.”

Const. Mitschang noted school boards have a zero-tolerance policy, which means students are being expelled for misconduct. “The premier and the education minister realize that’s not working.”

Const. Mitschang added more money is needed for kids at risk.