Gangs and their violence have been a constant in Langley and the Lower Mainland through the past dozen years.
Every time it seems that the shootings may have abated, there will be another murder, another drive-by shooting, another vehicle peppered with bullets in broad daylight.
This week, the provincial government announced more grants for school-based programs that help young people avoid criminal and gang lifestyles. It’s probably one of the best things we could be investing in as a society.
Gangsters in B.C., particularly those exchanging gunfire, tend to be young, in their 20s and early 30s. They often reach the stage of carrying guns and moving large quantities of illicit drugs after several years of criminal lifestyle that begins in their teens.
We have tried to starve the gangs of guns, and we have tried to cut off their access to illicit drugs smuggled from overseas, and both have been difficult.
Starving them of new recruits is likely the best strategy.
We should note that while these programs are aimed at what are often termed vulnerable youths, they can come from families of any economic background, any neighbourhood, and any ethnic background. The lures of the gang lifestyle – supposed easy money, glamour, and a kind of infamy – appeal to more young people than we might like to admit.
Stopping kids from being lured into gangs is more difficult than it seems.
It’s not enough to tell young kids at risk that they might die. Far too many teenagers, as we know, think they’re immortal. We can’t just tell them that they’ll end up in prison, because no criminal thinks they’ll get caught.
In the end, it will take time, trust, and alternatives. We need to aim kids towards something better than dying in a hail of bullets.