BY DR. GIRA BHATT
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
WHILE wanting only the best for their children, parents do their best. They nurture their children making sure that they are happy, healthy and on track for life success. Being a parent, however, also means that one has to stay vigilant and keep children safe and away from dangerous influences.
A common fear expressed by parents in our community is the presence of gangs and gang recruiters. Many parents worry that although their children are doing fine today, how can they be sure that these children will not get lured into the world of crimes, violence, drugs, and gangs.
While our police force is targeting known criminals and gangsters to keep our neighborhoods safe, the concern remains that despite their efforts to bring the hardened criminals to justice, the nuisance of the gang problem is not going away. One of the major reasons for this is that there is a flow of new recruits to gangs, who keep moving up in the chain and replace those who are either dead or in prison.
So how do we stop this chain of gang menace?
A clear answer is prevention of recruitment by gangsters. Since the new associate members of the criminal gangs tend to be teenagers, it makes sense to protect them against the negative influences and lures of gangster life. After all, one does not become a gangster overnight. It starts somewhere, some place, some day when the first step is taken by a young teenager into the path leading to the gang land. It is also the time to act quickly to stop the teenager before he or she is far too gone.
Although there is a tendency to hold parents responsible and accountable for what their children choose to do, the reality is that parents cannot work alone to keep their children safe and protected. A child is influenced by the entire surrounding, not by the home alone. Therefore, as parents, teachers, social workers, researchers, police officers and community members we must all work together to come up with preventive strategies.
With this goal, it is good news that an important step in this direction has been taken. Derived from extensive research and community consultations, a gang-prevention parent resource booklet has been developed. The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC (CFSEU-BC) which is the BC’s integrated anti-gang police agency has collaborated with the Acting Together: Community University Research Alliance (AT-CURA) of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and the South Asian Community Coalition Against Youth Violence (SACCAYV) to develop a booklet titled “Understanding Youth and Gangs: A Parent Resource”. Originally published in English, the booklet is now available in the Punjabi language.
The booklet provides information on how gangs operate in BC, how they recruit new members, and importantly, what parents can do to protect their children from becoming new members of criminal gangs. Expert psychologists have prepared a list of parenting tips which are practical and written as easy-to-follow steps. There is also a list of resources available for parents who may be concerned that their child might be associating with criminal gangs.
The message of the booklet is positive. It is aimed at empowering parents who can do something about preventing gangs from recruiting our precious youth. These booklets are free and available at local gurudwaras, as well as schools and community centres.
Alternately, a box of 250 booklets may be requested for your organization by contacting Geeta Reddy of the CFSEU-BC: [email protected]
The booklet also provides an excellent resource for hosting anti-gang information forums and workshops for youth and parents. Sergeant Lindsey Houghton of CFSEU-BC is available to lead these workshops: [email protected] or phone 604-764-9085.