By Charles Hamilton, The Starphoenix June 17, 2015

Photo: Police Chief Clive Weighill visits with members of Str8-Up – including Father Andre Poilievre and Shane Taysup – who attended the public meeting on policing in the city at the farmers market on Tuesday.
Photograph by: Gord Waldner, The Starphoenix

Shane Taysup is accustomed to the sound of gunshots echoing through his neighbourhood. The 26-year-old father of three left the gang life years ago, but the world of drugs and gangs are still close to home.

Now he wants the rest of Saskatoon to know that despite a falling crime rate, violence and poverty are still an everyday reality for many people in this city.

“That’s just the stuff we see. We see five-year-old (kids) hitting each other,” Taysup said.

Taysup was one of more than 50 people who showed up at the farmers market Tuesday night to discuss policing and community safety in Saskatoon.

Taysup said most people in the city don’t know the struggles others in the inner-city face everyday. He said city officials – and the city’s police force – need to focus on more of the core issues, not just cosmetic fixes. He said the community as a whole needs to do more to help people who are struggling, especially those who have chosen crime and gang life.

“When you are in that lifestyle, you aren’t a bad person. You are hurting,” he said.

A recent survey showed that gang activity was top of mind for citizens of Saskatoon.

At the meeting, Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill also acknowledged that gangs are a growing concern.

“We are seeing people coming in from outside the city from places like Vancouver and Toronto wanting to sell drugs because it’s a very lucrative market and of course we are seeing the gang activity associated with that and unfortunately some of the violence,” Weighill told the crowd.

Still, Weighill maintained that most people in Saskatoon are satisfied with their police service and they feel safe out on the streets.

He said public meetings like the one held Tuesday are important to keep the community informed about ongoing crime trends.

“I think it’s really important for the people in Saskatoon to hear what the real issues are, not what they are hearing on the street … and then make some decisions. What do you want from your police force? Do you think we are doing an adequate job? Do you want more, do you want less?” Weighill said.

Taysup was one of several members of Str8-Up – a local non-profit organization that helps people get out of gangs – who showed up at the public meeting. He says people in the inner-city need to see more positive role models – like the people involved in Str8-Up – in order to make the city a safer place.

STR8 UP with Chief Weighill at the Community Forum

STR8 UP photo: June 16 Community Forum – Policing

Faith,  Chief Weighill, Deb, Father Andre