Keeping children safe from gangs was the focus of training and community presentations taking place in the Williams Lake area April 15 to 17.
Silvia Seibert-Dubray, director of instruction of support services for School District 27, Jeff Pelley, Insp. and officer in charge of the Williams Lake RCMP and Dave Dickson, manager of community safety, co-ordinated the events and have all attended similar presentations.
“It is an initiative out of ERASE, Expect Respect and a Safe Education, called Gang Reduction through Informed Practices (GRIP),” Dubray said. “Williams Lake was one of 12 communities chosen this year to host it.”
A community presentation took place at Tl’etinqox First Nation on Monday, April 15 from 5:30 to 8 p.m and a presentation for parents of school-aged children was scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus beginning at 6 p.m.
Additionally, any stakeholders involved with youth such the RCMP, Ministry of Children and Family Development, Denisqi Services Society, Cariboo Chilcotin Child Development Centre, Three Corners Health Services Society and First Nations Education co-ordinators were invited to participate in gang and gun violence prevention training on April 16 and 17.
The training was led by Sgt. Keiron McConnell who has worked with the criminal justice system for the last 26 years.
“Keiron does a lot of gang strategies and gang outreach across B.C. and in Alberta,” Pelley said, adding McConnell is a police officer as well.
Rob Rai, an educator, is also part of the program who started the gang prevention program in Surrey and also travels around the province.
“Dave Dickson worked on bringing them up here to help us with some localized training with our local teams to try and move forward on strategies to reduce gang violence in this community and develop some strategies,” Pelley said.
Dubray has worked in SD27 for 30 years and said through her career she has seen lots of students slip through the cracks.
“The facilitators will come in and we can talk to the community about what gang life looks like and how to watch for signs to keep your kids out of gang life,” Dubray said. “Keiron does a really good presentation on both.”
Pelley described gang issues in the Cariboo Chilcotin as a group of individuals and negative peer groups that work amongst each other.
“I think we have had an extreme reduction in any violence over the last couple of years, that’s for sure, but there is always above and beyond enforcement which the RCMP are mainly involved in and that education in partnerships and collaborative intervention programs,” Pelley said, noting students, parents and educators can all play a role to make a safer and more successful community.
The community presentations in Tl’etinqox and Williams Lake were both free.
“Let’s be aware that this could be in our community, and how do we prevent our kids from being involved,” Dubray said.