Local crime prevention can help curb gun violence: GN
“It’s the main causes of these incidents that we need to focus on”
If you’re frustrated and scared by the amount of gun-related violence in Nunavut, you can hope the territory’s new crime prevention strategy becomes a tool to curb firearms incidents.
The five-year strategy, tabled this past March in the Nunavut Legislature, aims at preventing crime through changes “in the community itself,” by finding out why people engage in criminal activities, and then encouraging communities to find their own path to better public safety.
That process won’t be easy, and “it will take time,” said Yvonne Niego, Nunavut’s assistant deputy justice minister and a former RCMP officer.
“It’s very complex here in Nunavut as we are dealing with many issues,” she said.
These issues include cultural loss, trauma and mental health problems, to name a few.
Among the keys to preventing violence: encouraging Nunavummiut to seek out the help that’s already present in communities before volatile situations escalate, and developing new community-based prevention programs, Niego said.
With the crime prevention strategy comes money that communities can access to fund crime prevention projects, she said.
With respect to firearms, these could include projects such as firearms safety programs, building gun boxes or parenting programs.
Niego said the RCMP generally deals with one firearms incident every two to three days—although one week in mid-June produced several such incidents back-to-back.
• June 14: an 18-year-old in Resolute Bay, in a house where a two-year-old was present, was involved in a tense standoff with police, which put the High Arctic community in a lockdown;
• June 12: a boy, 11, in Arviat was injured after a firearms incident involving a 14-year-old;
• June 11: an 18-year-old youth in Cambridge Bay waved a pellet gun, then stabbed an RCMP officer who tried to detain him , police said; and,
• June 9: a 22-year-old man allegedly discharged a firearm carelessly in Sanikiluaq.
“It’s the main causes of these incidents that we need to focus on,” Niego said.
In addition to promoting awareness and crime prevention projects in communities, the RCMP also plans to increase the number of officers in the territory, she said.
For 2017-18, the Justice Department asked the Government of Nunavut for $1,754,000 so the RCMP could add nine regular members to communities across all three regions of Nunavut.
The RCMP detachment in Iqaluit will receive three of these new officers, according to information shared during a recent city council meeting.
While the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team may be based outside Nunavut in the future, the level of service would still be maintained, Niego said.