Youth and crime hot issues at Ward 14 debate

Susie Styrsky says cutting youth programs won’t help Toronto’s kids or its crime rate.

“You’re taking away programs from our children and we’re worried about shootings?” Styrsky said. “It’s the youth shooting each other.”

Styrsky expressed her concerns to candidates at a debate for council hopefuls in High Park-Parkdale (Ward 14) at Bishop Morocco/Thomas Merton Catholic School Oct. 12. Youth programs and crime prevention were one of focuses in the meeting.

Styrsky directed her frustrations at incumbent councillor Gord Perks for what she called the downsizing of a martial arts program by Toronto Parks and Recreations in particular.

The cost of programming is also an issue, she said.

Following the completion of the beginners’ program, she said, families will be charged when they register their children to different skill levels.

“What they want to do now is to implement just a beginners program so when kids finish the program, they (Toronto Parks and Recreation) recommend provincially recommended clubs, which are private,” Styrsky said.

Perks said there is a review of the fees, and added that he hasn’t seen anything to indicate the program is only offered to beginners.

“There is no assertion from any city employee at this point to anyone taking the program that it’s only going to be introductory,” Perks said.

Another resident questioned candidates about a recent string of shootings in Parkdale and the kind of action plans candidates have to prevent these occurrences.

Candidate Bill Vrebosch said he is in favour of a larger police presence in Parkdale.

“There was a shooting at six o’clock in the afternoon, and it takes a lot of strength to pull a gun out and shoot and take a shot at someone knowing there will be no police around,” Vrebosch said.

Jules José Kerlinger, who was born and raised in Parkdale, said in order to prevent crime it’s important to address the causes. The answer to the problem goes further than putting more police officers on the streets, he said.

“It’s not a black and white issue where more police officers will automatically result in less crime,” Kerlinger said. “You have to identify the root causes.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the quote “There was a shooting at six o’clock in the afternoon, and it takes a lot of strength to pull a gun out and shoot and take a shot at someone knowing there will be no police around,” was incorrectly credited to Michael Erickson. The quotes were by Bill Vrebosch. Toronto Observer regrets the error.