What is gang life?
As someone who has lived through this world, I can tell you first hand that wealth, power, security, and belonging are not what gang life showed me.
Gang life showed me the squalor of prison and the fear and isolation that exists within those walls. It showed me true hopelessness and forced me to make choices that have had dire consequences in my life and in the lives of those around me.
Gang life showed me how to bury friends. How to hold widows as they cried for their husbands and it forced me to watch as many of the people I knew went from lively young men, full of promise...to drug addicted, desperate and out of options.
This is the real truth about gang life.
It robs you of your humanity and decency and leaves those around you living in agony, forced to watch as you slip further and further away from your true self every single day. It is a lifestyle that consumes you and does nothing but take from you, until you end up a shell of who you once were. And that's if it doesn't kill you in the process.
This is a problem that transcends our societal boundaries. Gang life doesn't care if you're rich, poor, white, brown or any other shade in between, everyone can become a victim of this lifestyle both as a perpetrator or an innocent bystander.
Everyone can also get help.
"American Jim Rohn famously quoted that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with..."
"Considering this quote it is not difficult to see how an individual associating with a negative peer group can fast-track to failure.
In today’s world, the concept of "fitting in" for a teenager trumps everything, and is why I often see good kids get caught up in bad situations. If you or somebody you know is heading down this road, the quickest way to pull a u-turn is to reach out and ask for help.
It is common knowledge that everybody makes mistakes and everybody messes up once in a while, but what matters most is we learn from our mistakes and continue to thrive towards a better future."
Myth vs. Realities
Below are 5 common myths and the realities of gang life as described by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit British Columbia (CFSEU).
You'll have plenty of friends and they won't care if you're a gangster.
Your friends won’t want to hang out with you because they don’t want to get shot at, arrested, or identified by the police as being a ‘gang associate’.
Someone will always have your back and you'll be protected.
Gang members are driven by greed and are out for only themselves. We’ve seen many members and associates change allegiances and there have even been cases of murders happening between members of the same gang over what many people would consider trivial things. Gang leaders always take the biggest cut with junior members left to fight for the scraps.
You can always get out wherever you want.
It is very difficult to leave a gang once you’ve joined. You’ll need help from the police, your family and friends, and others. Your gang leaders will usually make your debts to the gang so high, with the threat of violence if you don’t pay, that it makes it seem impossible to leave. If you do manage to get out, you’ll have to remove or cover up your gang tattoo(s) and any scars or marks from the gang initiation.
Even if you do end up in prison, your gang membership will protect you from physical violence.
You will, in fact, likely be subjected to more violence within prison. Rival gang members and other inmates will try and boost their credibility, exact revenge, or simply assault you for the sake of assaulting you.
You'll be respected and feared whenever you go.
Your friends and family will be too scared, embarrassed, or ashamed to spend time with you. Many Lower Mainland establishments are members of Bar and Restaurant Watch. In these establishments, with the co-operation of the local police, you will be immediately removed or just simply denied entry. You can also be removed under the provincial and federal legislations. This can become very embarrassing when out for grandma’s birthday dinner at your family’s favourite restaurant.
Want to know more?
Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit
A comprehensive gang education, prevention, and awareness initiative that uses bold, emotional, and visually impactful images and messages.cfseu.bc.ca
The Surrey Wraparound Program (Wrap) is a partnership between the Surrey School District, RCMP and the City of Surrey.wraparound
"Empower Surrey was developed by the City of Surrey’s Community Safety section with input from over 100 local youth ages 14 to 19, and experts working in our community. This website is a unique and valuable resource for caring adults to access firsthand information and become equipped with the knowledge to better understand issues, topics, and environments that youth face everyday in our community."empowersurrey.ca