Our Government’s End Gang Life Initiative Needs Community Support To Be Successful

By Mike Morris – Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety

The dangers of a gang lifestyle are significant. Those engaged in gang activities risk not only their own lives, which are cut short on average by age 30, but also those of their families and communities.

More than ever, cowardly attacks on our busy streets are endangering the lives of innocent bystanders. This is why, beyond recent additions of members to Surrey’s RCMP Detachment and the significant provincial anti-gang resources that have been on the ground since day one, we want to reinforce our efforts to keep young people out of gangs.

British Columbia’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) has created the End Gang Life program, focusing on province-wide anti-gang prevention strategies targeting at-risk youth. CFSEU-BC receives $60 million a year from our government, which means not only significant support for the efforts of police on the front lines, but also resources to keep young people out of gangs in the first place.

The End Gang Life program has been a continued success in many communities, and I can say with confidence that our anti-gang officers are engaging with the South Asian community. CFSEU-BC is an original partner with the RCMP, Gurdwara leadership and the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) in the Sikh Leadership and Police Committee on Gang Violence.

This partnership has resulted in the first-ever meetings between police and all temple leaders at the RCMP’s Pacific Regional Training Centre in 2014 and 2015, and several follow-up newsletters to the South Asian community and distributed through the Gurdwaras. CFSEU-BC has also distributed approximately 60,000 English/Punjabi “Understanding Youth and Gangs – A Parent’s Resource” booklets to community partners, Gurdwaras, and to families at South Asian youth events and Vaisakhi parades.

Additionally, a Punjabi-speaking officer working within CFSEU-BC has taken part in almost two dozen radio and television interviews to address gang issues and prevention. CFSEU-BC’s Community Engagement Officer has spoken to youth and families at nearly two dozen South Asian community events, Gurdwaras, schools and police-hosted community safety forums.

Collaboration and communication between the Province, police agencies and community leaders are stronger than ever. We’re all working together to protect public safety and enact real change in young people’s behaviour. CFSEU-BC is knocking on doors and engaging families, identifying gang “up-and-comers” in the community and talking to their parents, and visiting youth and young adults in custody to start the conversation on gang-exit strategies.

These initiatives are making a difference and the community is listening, as consistently demonstrated in the well-attended community safety forums hosted by police. But there is still more that we can do together.

Now, we need the families and friends of those directly involved in ongoing gang activities to do the right thing and come forward to police. For those involved in gang life, or those being pressured to join a gang, I assure you that you will end up injured, dead or convicted and behind bars.

Our government is committed to ensuring that families and communities are safe. Those who choose not to heed these warnings will find no safe haven in British Columbia.

Mike Morris is BC Solicitor General and Minister of Public Safety.

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