Community leaders are hoping new money from the federal government will address the root causes of gun crime and gang violence in Windsor.
On Thursday, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk announced that $2.7 million is being directed to youth-oriented programs and services as part of crime prevention and early intervention efforts.
"We need resources here to empower local organizations to do their work on the ground," Kusmierczyk said. "Our efforts start at the grassroots, community level."
The City of Windsor is responsible for distributing the money.
Two recipients have been named. They are as follows:
New Beginnings Essex, who offer integrated support services dealing with issues such as youth justice, addiction, and mental health.
Essex County Youth Diversion, who deal with at-risk youth — especially those who have been in conflict with the law.
From left: Stacey Yannacopoulos of New Beginnings, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk, Joanna Crawford of Youth Diversion, City of Windsor human and health services commissioner Andrew Daher, and Ward 7 coun. Angelo Marignani announce federal funding to prevent gun crime and gang violence in Windsor. (Dalson Chen/CBC)
"This (funding) will allow us to expand our reach," said Stacey Yannacopoulos, executive director of New Beginnings.
As an example, Yannacopoulos pointed to a mobile intervention program that currently has an age cap of 20. The money will allow the program to raise that cap to 26.
That "is huge for us, because we're seeing the needs of youth don't stop at 18."
Joanna Conrad said Youth Diversion is seeing a growing need for intervention at a young age. "I would say nine to 10 years old would be the critical age."
Conrad pointed to how the Internet and social media have changed the environment in which kids are raised.
"The pressures that perhaps my generation would have faced when we were 15 or 16 years old, they're facing it a lot younger," she said. "They're exposed to a lot more things, younger."
Kusmierczyk said New Beginnings and Youth Diversion will each receive close to a million dollars, over the course of four years.
The exterior of Super Bowl Lanes in Windsor, north of the Forest Glade area, in April 2022. (Chris Ensing/CBC)
The remaining dollars have yet to be allocated. Andrew Daher, the city's commissioner of human and health services, said the city's looking for proposals from the public.
"We aim to establish more partnerships, and expand this exceptional work," Daher said.
A formal request for proposals is expected to be posted on the municipality's website (citywindsor.ca) next month.
Thursday's announcement was held at the Forest Glade Community Centre. Kusmierczyk said he has spoken to parents in the neighbourhood who have concerns about the safety of the Forest Glade skate park.
He also described feeling "shaken" by news of the April 2022 shooting at Super Bowl Lanes, which is located just north of Forest Glade.
But Ward 7 councillor Angelo Marignani said gun crime and gang violence aren't issues particular to Forest Glade.
"This happens city-wide," Marignani said.
"Every once in a while, you get that incident that is significant, that draws attention. What I'm really happy to see, are the collaborations that we're seeing here, with the federal government and the municipal government — to improve those situations."
A day prior to the announcement, Windsor police disclosed that a 17-year-old male was arrested in relation to a gunpoint robbery on California Avenue on Nov. 14 in the city's west end.
Earlier in the week, Windsor police announced multiple arrests in a separate incident involving a firearm: Five people ranging in age from 19 to 28 are facing charges in relation to an assault and robbery on Nov. 12 in the 300 block of Glengarry Avenue.
The five accused were stopped in a vehicle in which a loaded sawed-off shotgun was found.
Police are still looking for the male suspect responsible for a shooting with injuries in downtown Windsor during the early hours of Nov. 5.
Shots were fired in the 400 block of Ouellette Avenue. Two people were grazed by bullets, while a third victim — a 23-year-old male — was hit in the arm.
Police described the suspect in the downtown shooting as a male in the age range of 19 to 23.
"Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community. And that sense of safety and security is shattered every time a violent crime takes place," Kusmierczyk said on Thrusday.