Sun helps launch anti-gang video contest for B.C. high school students

Kim Bolan (Vancouver Sun) | November 30, 2010

Anti-gang educational programs must target younger kids to combat the continuing gang problem in B.C., Sgt. Shinder Kirk of the Gang Task Force said Monday.

Kirk said that in at least one Lower Mainland elementary school where he was volunteering, there was the “mimicking of the gang behaviour in kids as young as Grade 5.”

And over the last two years, the task force has encountered structured gangs in which members are middle and secondary school students, Kirk said.

One such teen gang, which calls itself the Unknown Soldiers, has links to a Metro Vancouver adult criminal organization, Kirk said.

“They were generally middle-school or high-school aged. It had individuals in various Lower Mainland communities and that group was proven to be linked back to a known adult gang through an individual residing in Metro Vancouver,” Kirk said.

The group is still active, though police quickly tried to intervene to help some kids on the periphery, Kirk said, “to make sure they weren’t drawn into the lifestyle.”

Despite the murders of several teens and young adults involved in gangs over the last two years, and the incarceration of leaders of criminal organizations, some teens are still not getting the message.

And some are taking it beyond admiration, making conscious decisions to get involved in the lifestyle, Kirk said.

“What we do know is that there are groups of youth, not only in Metro Vancouver, but in other communities, that we can prove have formed a gang and that particular gang is heavily influenced by an adult who is engaged in the lifestyle and has ties to known gangs within the province,” he said.

The Gang Task Force, The Vancouver Sun and the CBC are sponsoring the Teens Against Gangs video contest for grades 8 to 12 to try to get the message out about the dangers of a criminal lifestyle.

“It is critical that we have peers talking to peers,” Kirk said. “The message is occasionally lost when we have adults speaking. But when we have peers — people their own age in the same environment as they are — speaking about the ills of being involved in gangs or organized crime, I think that is extremely beneficial.”

A similar TAG anti-gang poster contest held earlier this year attracted hundreds of entries from around the province.

More important than anything was the discussion the contest sparked among teens, Kirk said.

“We have certainly come to a crossroads. It is really now up to the peers of individuals that are at risk or certainly engaged in risky behaviour to tell their peers that in fact this is not the way to go,” he said.

“We still have these adults that are very much mired in the world of gangs and they are an influence whether directly or indirectly on younger generations and that is the issue here.”

He said teens are getting trapped in the “lifestyle either by either getting favours done for them or doing favours for others. It is the selling of the lifestyle and it is huge. Any way we can get the message out that in fact it is not glamorous.”

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